STEVE ROBINSON 1962-2014: American Vets Lose Their Biggest Battle Buddy

Steve Robinson 1962-2014

Steve Robinson 1962-2014

by The Military Suicide Report
June 20, 2014

Few people will go to their grave with thousands of saved lives credited to their name.

Steve Robinson just did.

The gentle big man, and former Army Ranger died June 12 of unspecified causes. He was just 51.

What kind of man was he?

He was the ultimate battle buddy, especially to young emotionally-wounded service members during their darkest moments … mostly guys who decided they’d had enough, gripping a loaded gun or bottle of pills in one hand and a mobile phone in the other, listening to Steve’s soothing sermons about survival and healing.

Steve was big, at least 275 lbs, probably more. He kept his hair cut at military standards, even after retirement. He had eyes that were as serious as they were kind. He always had time to help, and help he did, anytime, day or night. When it came to helping “his people,” Steve knew no clock.

He became well-known as the “go to guy” when a young soldier, sailor, airman or Marine was suffering severe psychiatric breakdown — usually just after getting home from multiple combat tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan — totally out of gas and getting a professional beat down from military commanders instead of badly needed help.

Steve knew military regs, inside and out.

He knew exactly how commanders operated — the devious tactics they used on green 19- and 20-year-olds just out of high school — and how they routinely flushed their mentally and physically wounded out of the military for new healthy young bodies, ready to deploy. Disposable humans.

Steve helped thousands of service members navigate the thick and complicated military medical and legal manuals, to save them from going to the brig during seasons when their PTSD was running wild. So many of them had military commands breathing down their necks, trying to criminalize their medical problems by punishing any and every minor infraction of military protocol to prove a “pattern of misconduct,” or by pressuring them into accepting a bogus “personality disorder” discharge.

Taking a PD discharge would get you out of the Army fast and easy, but it meant you would have a helluva time getting VA care for PTSD afterward. In excess of 100,000 desperate service members have accepted the PD discharge since 9/11, instead of waiting out the long adversarial process of navigating “the system” to get a proper diagnosis for PTSD before discharge. Steve thought this was a huge injustice for the young men and women accepting PD discharges.

You see, Steve knew exactly what PTSD was from a young age. His dad, served as a hard-ass combat Marine in Vietnam. He brought a severe case home from the war. He showed his kids what PTSD was all about.

But Steve, after retiring from 20 years with the Rangers was determined “not to be that way” with his own family. He became something that could best be described as a combination of Zen monk, platoon sergeant, big brother and military lawyer.

He taught countless troubled young men and women in uniform how to safely get off dangerous psychotropic drug cocktails that their military docs prescribed by the bag full, and instead help manage their raging minds and panic attacks by deeper breathing, calm music, sitting next to a pond, or burning some incense … hippie stuff. Steve definitely had some hippie in him.

Steve also could hold his own in the halls and cocktail lounges of Washington D.C., unafraid to pound on doors or engage congressional staffers after hours over drinks. Often, he was an expert witness during House or Senate committee hearings, where he would call “BS” on the underhanded tactics used by DoD and VA against “his people” suffering PTSD and countless other injuries, including TBI, Gulf War Illness, and injuries from the neurotoxic Malaria drug Lariam.

He had the lingo and always brought the hard statistical evidence. When Steve spoke to congress, he really had his shit together. His exhaustive work in the capital and across America helped an entire generation of veterans from being thrown under the bus, during a time when it was SOP to do so at military commands worldwide. When Steve spoke, the big guys in congress usually listened, unlike at the Pentagon.

When on occasion nobody would listen, Steve wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and share his concerns and frustrations with a hungry journalist. That happened in 2006 when nobody would listen to Steve about the laundry list of serious problems facing severely wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

With all the evidence of Walter Reed’s poor living conditions, over-medicating, suicides, and daily humiliation of troops in recovery there, Steve went to the Washington Post and gave them the scoop. The reports quickly awakened congress and the DoD brass. The resulting attention on Walter Reed served notice to military leaders that they could not continue to get away with handling wounded troops like recycling. The Post’s reporting on the Walter Reed scandal earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize.

Steve departs at a critical time, when the VA has been caught in a historic criminal conspiracy to deny care and benefits to millions of sick and wounded. Now it is known exactly how VA intentionally harms veterans. VA has been doing it through maltreatment, outright denial of benefits, or through actual negligent homicide and intentional over-medicating unsuspecting veterans with fatal prescription drug cocktails; drugs that are proven to induce suicidal behavior.

Perhaps the good soul Steve was, just could not endure seeing “his people” treated by VA and DoD in such a diabolical manner. Perhaps, his heart just stopped, because it was broken over it all. Perhaps he had loaded his vet advocacy ruck sack with one case too many, and he could not march on without more concern and help from American leaders, its citizens, and other advocates.

There is no doubt at TMSR that Ranger Robinson will be fast-tracked through heaven’s gate, and have a leadership billet waiting for him in the sky.


Senate Approves Amendment Forcing New Unified DoD Suicide Prevention Program; House Vote Pending

Senate Passes Murray Measure to Reform Defense Suicide Prevention Programs

by Adam Ashton
The News Tribune, Dec. 5, 2012

The Senate this week passed an amendment that would reshape the Defense Department’s behavioral health and suicide prevention programs, compelling each service to adopt common practices.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., submitted the provision to the $631 billion defense authorization bill. Her amendment mirrors a bill she submitted in June.

“This is a major step forward in Congress really focusing on the issue of mental health of our service members, and it has not been done before,” Murray, the chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said today.

Her proposal seeks to standardize the Defense Department’s varied suicide prevention programs. Each branch of the armed forces takes its own approach, according to a 2011 RAND Corp. study.

The Army, Navy and Marines lack formal policies to restrict troubled service members from obtaining lethal means, and none of the armed services offer guidelines describing the benefits of reaching out for help, according to the RAND study.

Murray’s amendment also takes steps to streamline the sharing of records between the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs; it encourages both the Pentagon and the VA to hire combat veterans as peer counselors for service members in behavioral health programs; and it expands access to behavioral health programs for the families of service members.

“It really is prevention,” she said. “It helps us by reaching out to the family members who are on the front lines, and the peer-to-peer counseling, which we know is a really important part, but is not part of the services today,” she said.

Suicides in the military started climbing considerably in 2005, and the trend has not abated despite major investments in new programs and outreach efforts across the services.

This year, the number of suspected Army suicides reached 166 by October, surpassing the 2012 total of 165.

Murray’s amendment has one more hurdle to being adopted. It has to go to a review by the House Armed Services Committee before the House and Senate can negotiate the differences between their separate defense bills.

Read the rest of this story:

VISUAL CARNAGE: Images of War Censored in America; No ‘Un-See’ Option for Participants, Who Must Bring it all Home

A partially-decapitated corpse lay on the ground after incoming Iraqi artillery fire hit a U.S. Marine Corps unit April 7, 2003. Two Marines died. At least four were wounded. Scenes like this return with the men and women who must fight and witness the violence on the ground. American media censors mostly restrain war zone photography that depicts any reality of war; the cerebral intimacy of lethal, violent death remains an unknown element to public audiences. At home, memories of war resurface uninvited in the mind through sight, smell and sound … symptoms doctors describe as a medical condition known as PTSD. Experts say up to 30 percent of the 2.5 million troops coming home from war will struggle with post-war psychiatric injuries. Suicide is now the leading cause of death in the U.S. military ranks. Since 2008, the VA and CDC estimate at least 29,000 veterans have died from suicide. (E. Dagnino / Black Star)

Michael Ware on the Things War Makes You See

As millions of war veterans return home, one reporter who watched and reported the carnage and killing faces the abyss—and survives.

by Michael Ware
Daily Beast, May 28, 2012

I should be dead. I wish I was.

Those eight words were not easy to write. It’s even harder now reading them back. Seeing them there, sullen and sad and monosyllabic in their black and white.

For the longest time I wished I was dead. I wished one of my multitude of near-misses wasn’t.

Later there then came a time — when I’d first stopped living in war and first found Brooklyn — a time when I consciously, achingly desired death. Craved it. Longed so hard and bitterly for it that it became some taut tripwire strung within me where no one could see.

Former CNN ‘ironman’ Michael Ware shares the dark side of coming home from war, dreams of violent death, and reaching for inner strength to overcome a powerful urge to just end it all. (Ralph Alswang)

But then, perhaps, thinking back, decoding it anew, maybe the wish was not to be dead? Not entirely? Not when I drill down into it.

Maybe my wish rather was for all the pain to simply end?

Yes, that’s starting to seem more like it. Maybe it wasn’t death I wanted so much as it was oblivion.

I won’t tell you how close I did or did not come in those angry days, after what feels now like an unspeakable decade of reporting wars; wars from Lebanon to Georgia, to Pakistan and Afghanistan; all mere accompaniments to six or seven years in Iraq.

But I will tell you of when, on a day I cannot distinctly remember, that I came to know I wouldn’t do it. That no matter what, no matter how badly I pined for it, I would nonetheless continue.

Even if that meant being sentenced to a slow, quiet torment for the term of my natural life. That was the day I finally accepted it was a choice no longer mine to make.

I know one day my now-young son will read this, hopefully when he himself is a man. I pray not sooner. It’s for him, and only for him, that I resisted.

Once I realized even a deadbeat father, should I become one, is still better than the specter of a dead dad, especially at his own hand.

The decision, however, was far from palliative.

I’ve since had thoughts, remembrances of that urge, despite knowing the execution of them is off the table. Because it doesn’t alter the immutable sense that my race is run. That I’m done. That all the rest, now, is busy work.

To this day my mind still reels with war’s usual kaleidoscope: dead kids splayed out, often in bits; screaming mates; crimson tides from al Qaeda suicide bombings creeping across asphalt. I still see … things.

Other things I cannot remember, even when told of them, but I know they haunt my sleep;

I tore my left shoulder right out of its socket during a dream one Friday night;

awakened by the hellish sound of someone screaming before realizing it was me.

So, yes, I still see things.

Mired in a falsehood of self-medication, I applied blizzards of booze and drugs to buy me time. To get me from one dawn to another sleep. To give me the time to reconcile my decision to live. All stealing for me just one more day, one more day.

I know one day my now-young son will read this, hopefully when he himself is a man. I pray not sooner. It’s for him, and only for him, that I resisted.

— Michael Ware, former CNN war correspondent on surviving after coming home from war duty.

Though in a perverted way it helped save me, it didn’t immunize me against the price for it all.

For now, I’m deprived of the right to see the boy I’m still here for, though he lives but blocks away and drives twice daily to school past my apartment.

I feel chewed and spat out by my past employers.

In the field it was only a colleague—a mate and true brother in arms, with me everywhere—who helped me at all.

And then, in New York, two other friends, both cameramen, discreetly found the doctor I went on to see in secret for almost two years. His bills came out of my pocket, no recompense from those who paid me for my wars.

Read the rest of this story: