Saturday, November 19, 2011
PROFILE: Chaplains Bill and Anne Bowman
by Cyrus Webb
It was during the summer of 2010 that I first heard about the work that Chaplains Bill and Anne Bowman were doing to help veterans and their families through their book A VETERAN'S HOW-TO GUIDE. Heidi Clingen, an author who had appeared on my radio show that year, made the introduction for us through email, and I would have them on Conversations LIVE to discuss their work.
Chaplains Bill and Anne Bowman have been married 16 years and have dedicated their lives to helping others find solutions in their time of need. It was during the writing of a thesis, however, that Bill's need for help was brought to the forefront. A Vietnam veteran, the couple had been dealing with trying to get Bill's benefits for quite some time. Their experience and the information they gleaned along the way became the catalyst behind the book A VETERAN'S HOW-TO GUIDE.
As the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks was nearing, I wanted to talk with the couple about their journey and how they are now helping veterans all around the country.
What led to you two teaming up to write the book A VETERAN'S HOW-TO GUIDE?
Anne Bowman: When Bill was studying for his Master's in Divinity degree, he wrote of his experiences trying to get his benefits as his master's thesis. It was a very frustrating time for both of us and the book was born out of that thesis and our experiences dealing wit the maze that is called the Veterans Administration.
Bill Bowman: I became involved in helping other veterans because of my frustrations, the insults, the misleading paperwork and the purposeful delays by the Department of Veteran's Affairs during the VA disability process that caused me to realize that many veterans, especially those with PTSD, would give up due to the unneeded stress put on them by the system. God has given me the desire and the skills to work with my military brothers and sisters to help them gain the benefits that they and their families earned.
Because of the wars being fought today we have soldiers of all ages and backgrounds coming home changed forever. What do we need to know about those who sign up to protect our country and their needs?
A.B.: There are a lot more women fighting for our freedom today but the guidelines that were written were not written for them, especially when it comes to situations like pregnancy and rape. The treatment for our women warriors is not as sensitive as it should be, especially when dealing with rape issues, which are numerous. I strongly doubt there is any military personal returning from battle who does not have PTSD, which is finally being recognized for what it is. Unfortunately, not enough is being done to work with veterans from our past wars and make the process easier for them. Most importantly, though, is to make sure the families of our warriors do not expect the same person to return as the one who left. They may look the same but they will not be the same and that is PTSD.
B.B.: As in all wars, the returning veterans are not the same persons that went to war. Their families, upon their return, do not understand the returning veteran. Most, when returning, have PTSD and their families are not prepared for the changes in them. Because of the changes, so,e family members are afraid of the veteran. This can, and does, lead to families asking the veteran to find a place to live and become homeless. If married, many veterans are divorced and many because of the misunderstood effects of PTSD are placed in custody for crimes of violence and frustration.
I want to ask you a question that many of our readers will be interested in response. Do you think we fully appreciate and understand the sacrifice made by soldiers and their families today?
A.B.: The country as a whole, and those of us who are older, certainly do appreciate the sacrifices made by both the military and their families, because we have a point of reference. Those of us who are older know what it means when someone in the family goes off to war because many of us grew up when our country had the draft. Unfortunately, that was removed in the 60's and our country's downward spiral started. I truly don't think the younger generation can appreciate what our military is doing for them because they don't have a reference point as to the sacrifices that are being made. They take too much for granted and too many are not willing to fight for the freedom that they cherish which is, in many cases, the reason that they came to this country.
B.B: Many persons, because of how the Vietnam veterans were received upon their return from the war when they were spit on, learned and have an appreciative, positive and supportive attitude. Many will never support the military and/or their families. I have a member of my wife's family who will always put me down for serving. The country, as a whole, does support the military. The young Americans not serving are too busy playing games and trying to keep up a status (symbol) to care about others. The important question should be does the government, Department of Veteran's Affairs and those n power provide complete support for these honorable young people who stand tall, serving their country?
What do you hope your book A VETERAN'S HOW-TO GUIDE continue to do for veterans and their families?
A.B.: As I stated, this book was born of the frustrations that we experienced when Bill was fighting to obtain his benefits. Bill is highly educated and still had a fight on his hands to get his well earned benefits because of all the hoops that the VA makes the veteran jump through. We realized, after he was awarded his 100% disability rating, that the bulk of the military has just a high school education and is not well equipped to deal with the trauma of war and then coming home and dealing with the trauma of the VA. That alone could raise the soldier's PTSD response to an unacceptable level and could make it very difficult for the soldier to control. Consequently, we wrote the book in a simple, step by step approach to guide the veteran through the maze without becoming frustrated or, at least, to minimize the frustration level. For the vet, it is very comforting to know that they are not alone in the battle they are facing with their own government. Steps are explained, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) are explained so the vets are aware of what happened to them. There is also a chapter written for the spouse who was left behind with the family. For a synopsis of each chapter, you can go to out website, www.chaplainsbowman.com and read about the contents of the book.
I wish I could tell you how many calls Bill has received from vets all around the country thanking him for the book and for his service to them. He has been able to guide so many vets to conclusion in obtaining their benefits and that has been so gratifying for both of us. I do not speak to the vets who call because, quite honestly, I am not the person they need and who can relate to them. Bill has had vets in tears thanking him for the book and how simple he made it for them. That really helps to reduce their level of frustration and helps them to keep their eyes focused on their goal, which is obtaining their benefits. We don't have a foundation and we don't take donations. This is our way of giving back to our veterans who have certainly sacrificed for us.