Gary's Newsletter 368: Abu Ghraib and Yellow RibbonsPosted by Gary R Collins on January 28, 2010 Comments 1
ABU GHRAIB AND YELLOW RIBBONS
Two recent books have made a big influence on me. Both deal with U.S military personnel and their families but they have broader relevance to caregivers. Frequently I tell students that within a few years their present training is likely to seem antiquated and their work may be very different because so many things are changing so fast. Caregivers who don't adapt will become increasingly irrelevant.
Army psychologist Larry C. James discovered this when he worked at the much-publicized detention centers of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib in Iraq. James book, Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib, reads like a novel but it's the real-life drama of deplorable conditions, brutality, and irresponsible leadership. James was given responsibility for restoring order and changing an out of control environment. Despite the author's recorded prayers for guidance, the language of this book is raw. James determined to be a competent military officer in "the still new battlefield of the war on terror," even as he sought to be an ethical psychological healer. He shares his decision making, inner turmoil, post-combat psychological struggles, and the unfounded criticism that came from the media and from some in the American Psychological Association. This is the powerful, thought-provoking true-life story of a respected professional who had to change his methods to meet changing demands.
I've never met Col. James but I do know David A. Thompson, co-author of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. The book's subtitle, "Ministering to Returning Combat Veterans" is accurate but may be a little misleading because the book gives much broader insights into the challenges and struggles of military families. With his coauthor Darlene Wetterstrom, Thompson (who has two sons deployed overseas) describes his own experiences as a Navy chaplain and his current counseling work with deploying and returning military men and women. Of special value is the practical guidance for churches and communities that fail to see the deep needs and rich opportunities to assist military personnel and their families. This book gives another example of traditional caregiving roles that need to be adapted to changing circumstances.