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ODU Panel Discussion to Explore PTSD in the Military

After a decade of war on multiple fronts, living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become a painful reality for significant numbers of military veterans. But the often-hidden condition's reach extends much further - to family members, friends, co-workers and untold others.

With Hampton Roads' significant military population, finding ways to successfully manage PTSD is an issue of extreme importance to the region.

"For many of the 1.6 million U.S. service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, the trip home is only the beginning of a longer journey. Many undergo an awkward period of readjustment to civilian life after long deployments. Some veterans may find themselves drinking too much, unable to sleep or waking from unspeakable dreams, lashing out at friends and loved ones," writes Erin Finley, a Texas-based medical anthropologist, in her 2011 book "Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD Among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan."

Finley will be one of three participants in a PTSD-related panel discussion hosted by Old Dominion University's Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs (IEPA) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, in Room 102 of the Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building. The event is free and open to the public.

"Invisible Wounds: Military Management of PTSD" will feature Finley; Norm Stein, a licensed clinical social worker in Virginia for more than 17 years; and Eric Endries, the regional director for the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, Tidewater/Greater Hampton Roads area. Damien Walsh, an attorney adviser in the Office of the Legal Counsel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - Hampton Roads, will serve as moderator.

Each panelist will be given 20 minutes to talk on the subject and a 30-minute question-and-answer session with audience submissions will follow, said Robyn Bluhm, ODU assistant professor of philosophy.

Bluhm said the panel offers "select people with differing viewpoints."

Finley is "interested in how the military culture understands PTSD and how that has changed over time - a social science perspective," Bluhm said, adding that Stein has extensive experience working with affected populations and that she hopes Endries will provide a local perspective on the issue and the extent of help available.

Research conducted by Finley has explored the impacts of stress and violence on physical and mental health in Guatemala, Northern Ireland and among refugee, substance-abusing and veteran populations in the U.S. Her book was based on 20 months of PTSD research involving veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. She is currently a health research scientist with the Center for Improving Veterans' Health Through Research at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, and an adjunct assistant professor with the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Stein, a licensed clinical social worker in Virginia who has provided trauma counseling to more than 175 clients, has spent the past five years at a program that provides counseling to service members and their families. He previously worked at an employee assistance program, a community mental health program and in private practice. Stein's principal clinical interest is in the treatment of PTSD and trauma. In 2000, he achieved level II certification in eye movement desensitization reintegration (EMDR), a technique recognized as effective in PTSD treatment.

In his role with the Wounded Warrior Program, Endries covers all of southeastern Virginia, including Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore, Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. He attended Minnesota State University where he earned a bachelor's degree in health science and Army second lieutenant commission as a Distinguished Military Graduate. Endries also holds a master's in organizational leadership from Norwich University. He retired in 2011, after more than 20 years of service, as the U.S. Army's chief officer of education systems with Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe. Prior to that, he served with the 4th Infantry Division, National Training Center, 1st Armor Division and 10th Mountain Division in various staff and leadership positions. Endries' awards and decorations include: the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal for Valor, Ranger Tab and Combat Action Badge.

The event's moderator, Walsh, provides legal advice regarding business and administrative matters and participates in the Tidewater Government Industry Council and Department of Defense service-level working groups on contracts and intellectual property and business engagement. Walsh has held prior positions at the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) in Norfolk; the Navy Facilities Engineer Command (NAVFAC) MIDLANT, also in Norfolk; the Military Sealift Command in Naples, Italy; and the Fifth (V) Corps in Frankfurt, Germany. He is a regular participant in panel discussions of government business and administrative topics and is currently co-developing basic training modules for government, industry and academia. Walsh and his wife have been members of the IEPA Advisory Board since its inception.

Bluhm said the two previous IEPA panel discussions, involving military issues, attracted up to 150 audience members each.

For more information call 683-6705 or send an email to iepa@odu.edu.