Governor’s Proclamation Designating June 27, 2016 as Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Day

Posted on Jun 24, 2016 in News, News Release, Press Releases


Office of Veterans’ Services





For Immediate Release                                                                                                           June 27, 2016


Governor’s Proclamation Designating June 27, 2016 as “Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Day”

WHEN:            Monday, June 27, 2016

WHAT:            Governor’s Proclamation and Informational Article on June 27, 2016 as “Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Day”

Honolulu —Governor David Y. Ige today signed a State Proclamation designating June 27, 2016, as “Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Day” to encourage all public, private, and military service providers to continue educating service members and veterans and their families, victims of abuse, crimes, and natural disasters, and the general public about the causes, symptoms, and treatment for Post –Traumatic Stress (PTS) injuries. The State House and Senate also approved House Concurrent Resolution No. 129 denoting and emphasizing the same themes and objectives of the governor’s proclamation affirming their unified support of this important measure that deserves increased public emphasis, awareness and supportive services to help those in need.

Thomas Lee, Military Affairs Liaison attached with the Office of the Governor, understands how Post-Traumatic Stress can affect the lives of those you serve with, your family members and friends, people you meet daily and especially the affected individual. Here is his personal account and how he has coped with PTS.

          “On March 2007, my unit, the 4th Brigade 2nd Infantry Division deployed as part of “The Surge”. On 22 May 07 while on morning patrol, my Stryker was struck by a deep buried IED taking the lives of two men, Staff Sergeant Kristopher Higdon and PFC Robert Worthington and injured three other soldiers, one of which was me. Visibly shaken and trying to focus after the blast, I looked down and saw my severely injured right leg. My foot was missing – No fibula and only half of my tibia!! I immediately performed self-aid applying a tourniquet above what was left of my right knee. SPC Eric Orapeza, recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, upon reaching me placed a second tourniquet above the first which in retrospect, was just one of the many actions taken that day by him and others that would cumulatively save my life.

            I was first Medevac’d to Baghdad then transported to Landstuhl, Germany with final destination set as Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas where I would undergo many more procedures and a revision of my amputation that would result in the total loss of my right knee.

            I am able to recall a lot of what happened that day but there are pieces I have blocked out and am in constant fear of what recalling those memories may have as the men we lost that day were located in the vehicle near the blast point of entry and I crawled twice in-and-out of the hole created by the blast, meaning I had to have seen them.

          It is with humble gratitude I can say, without a doubt, that the encompassing support of my family by blood and my military family abetted my physical and my initial PTS recovery from my trauma. I still suffer from PTS although, perhaps, not as severe as others. Today, there are times when placed in certain situations the stress will present itself. From my perspective, PTS isn’t something you can simply “just work through” and it ceases. And, in some cases, PTS may not even present itself until years later. Everyone who suffers from this “invisible injury” handles the symptoms differently because the feelings, the thoughts, and the emotions triggered by this trauma are individually unique. Although not obvious, I am uncomfortable in large crowds… I can cope with being in them but am not comfortable at all. I also deal with instances of “flash-backs” in my sleep. I don’t like calling them nightmares as those flashbacks are not imaginary instead they are vivid memories of the events of that day and the many days before and after my injury.

            I have found that talking about the events helps me to keep from bottling up my emotions. However, this past Memorial Day proved to be hardest for me since my injury. I attended both the Punchbowl ceremony and the Governor’s ceremony in Kāne‘ohe and it hit me. Emotions filled me and with tears swelling, I realized I was home with my family and friends and my brothers-in-arms are not. To cope with my sense of loss, I spoke their names during the playing of taps and looked to the skies of my Island home and welcomed them here with me.

            PTS is very personal to me and it warms my heart that we have this opportunity to peel back the stigma related to PTS by recognizing that it is NOT a “disorder” but rather an INJURY. I have lost more battle buddies at home than I have in combat! I grieve for the friends who suffered alone and succumbed to untreated PTS where the only common thread is their combat deployments. PTS is an “invisible” injury and it is my hope that education and unilateral awareness will lead to less stigma and more service members coming forward to seek help before becoming a statistic.”

Post-Traumatic Stress can occur in military combat operations as experienced by Thomas Lee, but also in traumatic events experienced by people exposed to rape, sexual assault, battery, torture, confinement, child abuse, automobile accidents, train wrecks, airplane crashes, bombings, and natural disasters to name a few. Referring to the complications from PTS as a disorder perpetuates the stigma of and the bias against mental illness and may discourage those suffering from seeking proper medical healthcare and treatment. Making the condition less stigmatizing by increasing educational awareness at all levels, as one example, may help and positively influence those affected to seek timely treatment and care without fear of retribution or shame.

As another progressive step to address this important issue, Governor Ige with the support of Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan, State Adjutant General, Dr. Rachel Wong, the Director of the Department of Human Services, Dr. Virginia Pressler, the Director of the Department of Health and Thomas Lee, the Military Affairs Liaison, have joined forces to be key stakeholders along with federal, state, county, public, and private agencies in aligning with the tenets and objectives of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).   The development of strategic planning teams that will consist of policy level decision makers from these entities has already commenced. They will focus on the elements necessary for strengthening behavioral health systems serving military members, veterans, their families and our citizenry.