The comment I posted on on General Petraeus’ and Sidney Goodfriend’s 3/26/13 Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal

First, as background, here is a link to the article:

Training Veterans for Their Next Mission
The issue for many returning soldiers is not just a job—it’s a career.

[Unfortunately, this link to the article will only last a week but if you are a subscriber you can easily find it at]

Certainly General Petraeus’ and Mr. Goodfriend’s article makes important points. But while helping our deserving heroes find jobs – and as this article emphasizes, employment that builds on existing skills and training – is very important, this is far from a comprehensive solution.

A great many of our returning veterans need help to get them to a place – emotionally and psychologically – where they can compete for and hold such jobs. Of the 2 million-plus veterans who have deployed often multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, 1 in 4 have some level of Traumatic Brain Injury, and 1 in 5 suffer from Post Traumatic Stress. Something like 750-800K have one or both of these injuries. THESE are the veterans we need to pay special attention to – particularly when the suicide rate is 1.3 each day among this group.

Getting a good job is one thing, getting any job another, but having a healthy mindset and the mental stability and cognitive wherewithal to HOLD a job is quite another.

There are all sorts of innovative approaches to addressing this issue – and many of the more effective ones don’t necessarily even involve meds, rather they are about creating community: making a veteran realize that he or she matters – to the country, their colleagues, their family – and ultimately, to themselves. To get a job, to even want to try to get a job, these men and women need hope.

I’m personally inolved with one that is already showing considerable promise – I WAS THERE FILM WORKSHOPS. In our program, returning veterans recovering from PTS and TBI at Army Warrior Transition Units collaborate on short films about things they are struggling with relating to deployment, recovery and transition to civilian life.

Unlike my father and grandfather, both career Army officers who together served with distinction in four wars, I opted not to enter the family business. But with hundreds of thousands of men and women transitioning to civilian life over the next several years, there is a huge and vital role for the rest of us who chose other careers paths to welcome these veterans into our communities and ensure that they and their families lead long, fulfilling lives. Helping them get jobs is critical. But that won’t mean a thing if we don’t first help them heal – and WANT to heal.

And for that, what many of our returning heroes need most is HOPE.

Benjamin Patton
Patton Veterans Project, Inc.
New York City