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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

November 11 Is a Special Day to Honor…

(Courtesy of SMGH) Thursday, November 11 is Veterans Day in the United States, a day to honor all military veterans—those who served so that we can all enjoy freedom—freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. When you see a veteran, thank him/her for serving so that you can enjoy these freedoms.

Sadly, too many people see it as a holiday when we are off from work and watch the parades. But it is more than that. Unlike Memorial Day where we honor those who died in battle, Veterans Day honors those who served and were discharged with other than a dishonorable discharge.

“All veterans know many guys who came back home a mental and/or physical wreck, my brother being one of them who is still suffering after spending 20 years in the military,” said George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison at St. Mary’s General Hospital. “My wife and I will be attending a dinner next week for an organization called Heroes-to-Heroes,1 which helps troubled veterans with ‘moral injuries,’ before they commit suicide. We know the founder of this organization and know how successful they are in saving troubled veterans. Veterans who can’t work, struggle with their families, have serious medical and mental issues. Did you know that 18 veterans a day commit suicide? And on any given night, 60,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets due to homelessness? And 1.4 million veterans are at risk of homelessness.

“Why? Mental disorders, in particular post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are common among these veterans. They shake so badly that they can’t even use a computer keyboard. As a result, they have a hard time holding a job, which leads to poverty and homelessness. I have had such veterans working for me, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not convince them to continue working with us. What did they do to deserve this? All they did was serve in the military so that you can enjoy your freedom.”

PTSD or moral injury, a type of anxiety disorder, can happen after a deeply threatening or scary event. Like when2 you were ordered to shoot that boy by the barn in Vietnam who was younger than your son and you didn’t—and suddenly he pulled out a machine gun and killed two buddies. And that time in Korea when you captured an enemy machine gun nest with a pack of cigarettes. Or you as a tunnel rat walking four abreast in the ’Nam tunnels knowing that when the man in front of you is shot down, you step up to replace him. And yes, you can still hate Hanoi Jane3 for smiling and singing that anti-war song “Day Ma Di” as she sat on that Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun in Hanoi while you were pinned on the ground with your buddies dying all around you. You have a hard time living a normal life—insomnia, flashbacks, low self-esteem, and a lot of painful or unpleasant emotions. You might constantly relive the event—or lose your memory of it altogether.

Heroes-to-Heroes defines some of this stress as moral injury—the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses or fails to prevent acts that transgress their own moral and ethical values or code of conduct. They help all combat veterans, regardless of conflict. Veterans commit to a year-long program, part of which includes a trip to Israel where they work with members of the IDF and develop social and emotional bonds with one another while exploring their spirituality and pushing themselves physically. Spirituality visits to holy sites such as the Kotel, Stations of the Cross, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the opportunity to be baptized in the River Jordan, offer soul-searching and inner peace regardless of belief.

The Veterans Administration hospitals help the veterans as best as they can, but it is often difficult to get a timely appointment, or perhaps specialized care is required. The VA has a program whereby local hospitals can partner with the VA to treat veterans. In most cases, veterans must receive approval from the VA before receiving care from a community provider to avoid being billed for that care. VA staff members generally make all eligibility determinations for community care.

Much more is needed to help these heroes who did their best to help protect us and to enable us to go on with our daily lives and learn Torah. “St. Mary’s General Hospital proudly provides excellent medical care for veterans,” said Matyjewicz, who also joined and is a veteran of the U.S. Army. “Our behavioral health programs are among the best in New Jersey, and maybe the country. Together with our sister hospital, St. Clare Hospital, we educate new psychiatrists with our psychiatry residency program.

“But most importantly, Matyjewicz continued, “today we can help you with either outpatient or inpatient treatments. We have a state-of-the-art behavioral health inpatient unit, and our BHS Medical Care Unit Team and social workers are available to help provide a smooth continuum of care for patients with special post-discharge needs. If you are a veteran and suffering with moral injury, please contact the VA staff in East Orange for approval to come to St. Mary’s General Hospital. If you need any more information, please contact me directly.”

And it you are a veteran and experiencing a crisis NOW, either go to the emergency room or call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. They have caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs, many of whom are veterans themselves.

So there you have it folks. To those who served in the military, we salute you! And for everybody, consider saying a Shabbat prayer for the safety of American military forces—endorsed by both OU and RCA:

https://www.ou.org/judaism-101/prayers/prayer-safety-american-military-forces/

To learn more about our Behavioral Health Department, visit us at: https://www.smh-nj.com/our-services/mental-behavioral-health/ or to make an appointment please call: 973-470-3056.

St. Mary’s General Hospital—nationally recognized, locally preferred—among the top hospitals in America for health, quality, and patient safety. A center of excellence for maternal-child, the hospital has over 550 physicians and 1,200 employees, with every staff member committed to providing respectful, personalized, high-quality care—to satisfy patients’ needs and exceed their expectations. St. Mary’s General is a proud member of Prime Healthcare, which has more Patient Safety Excellence Award recipients for five consecutive years (2016-2020) than any other health system in the country including a “Top 15 Healthcare System” by Truven Health Analytics. To learn more about how St. Mary’s General Hospital visit https://www.smh-nj.com/ or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StMarysGeneral.

For more information, please contact George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison, at [email protected]

1 Heroes-to-Heroes Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation founded in New Jersey that provides spiritual healing and peer support for American combat veterans who have attempted suicide or are on a path to self-destruction due to moral injury.  https://heroestoheroes.org/

2 All the events here are true as reported by men who were there.

3 Jane Fonda, who visited North Vietnam, and a photo of her posing in a helmet on a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down our American pilots.

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