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Bingham C. Jamison, CFA – U.S.



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Section 60: Visiting Hallowed GroundScreen Shot 2013-05-27 at 5.02.55 PMjamisonbc

Tue, 28 May 2013 09:22:08 +0000

“So many graves.” That was my daughter, 4, aghast at the site of seemingly unending rows of greying marble headstones, arranged in perfect symmetry along the rolling Virginia fields. “Why did all these people have to die, Daddy?” This wasn’t my first time visiting old friends at a military cemetery, and yet the shock of its haunting grandeur — a scene as beautiful as it is disturbing — never seems to fade. Lost deep in thought from the passenger seat, I was attempting to mentally rectify how a place of such striking beauty could be home to so much inherent horror — my wife, forced in my silence to field the innocent inquiry from our daughter, attempted to delicately answer the existential question about war and fighting, death and God. I’m not sure I could have offered a response at all. As our intentionally circuitous route through Arlington National Cemetery wound us past the Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s historic home on the hill, I pondered his timeless utterance during the slaughter of the Battle of Fredericksburg. It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it. I wondered if those who had never borne the weight of war could ever truly understand his sentiment. As if on cue, Trace Adkins’ Arlington started playing on the radio. We turned off of Eisenhower Drive and parked along the curb under the shade of a tree at our destination, a bustling section of the cemetery home to many of our fallen service members from Iraq and Afghanistan. Located near the eastern edge of the hallowed grounds, Section 60 was depressingly active — veterans, active-duty service members, families, and patriotic civilians alike roamed the grounds to pay their respects to those lost in the last decade-plus of war. My wife and I were wholly unprepared for the varied scenes we witnessed during our stroll around the grounds: a mother and father, each proudly wearing USMC hats and shirts, sitting silently in lawn chairs at their son’s grave, staring into the(image)


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A Marine’s Anniversary ReflectionsThe sunrise is seen behind a US marine ijamisonbc

Tue, 19 Mar 2013 14:02:32 +0000

It’s the little details you tend to remember about war, snapshots of time that have a grisly habit of creeping into your thoughts and dreams years after your service: — The deafening silence of “roll call” during a memorial service for fallen comrades. — A jagged piece of metallic shrapnel deeply-embedded in the whites of an eyeball of a friend who lay screaming on a stretcher. — An insurgent’s shredded, infected calf muscle torn apart by an M-16, gaping open to the bone. These are just some of the intrusive images from Iraq that visit me from time to time — each one a reminder of the gruesomeness that is war. Ten years ago, full of preconceived notions and unrealistic expectations of combat, I watched the invasion of Iraq unfold from the confines of my barracks room in Quantico, Va. Joined by fellow boot lieutenants from my Marine Corps officer basic school class,  we made cocky, off-hand remarks about Marines kicking ass and killing the enemy — frankly, that’s exactly what we were training to do. So at the time, it seemed like justified confidence for warriors-in-training like us with everything to prove. But in reality, this group of alpha males was trying desperately to mask our collective insecurity with our uncertain, yet rapidly approaching, destinies in the corps. It was a strange feeling — almost out-of-body, really — to be in the middle of training for war and watching an actual war on TV. We knew that in a few short months we would be commanding Marines of our own, but we didn’t yet know in what capacity. As part of our officer training, we had to compete against our fellow classmates for billets in each of the roughly two-dozen MOSs (military occupational specialties). Some jobs were more coveted than others. Most men boasted of their intent to be Infantry Officers or Intelligence Officers, but there were limited slots for each of these specialties — demand far exceeded supply.  The greater Marine Corps still needed its Adjutants and Supply Officers,(image)


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Caring for Those Who Take Care of Our TroopsjamisonbcGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Mon, 14 Jan 2013 12:31:02 +0000

What can you say when a mental health expert — who is married to a mental health expert — can’t get the requisite counseling help he needs to survive? Dr. Peter J.N. Linnerooth’s story is as cautionary as it is haunting – hopefully it will shed much needed light on the tragic consequences of PTSD, and the overwhelming need (and moral obligation) for our government to marshal the very mental health resources for which Dr. Linnerooth so tirelessly advocated. MSU Dr. Peter Linnerooth in the faculty guide at Minnesota State University at Mankato, 2008. A former Army captain and mental-health professional whose mission in Iraq was to care for troops on the battlefield suffering from combat-induced anguish, Dr. Linnerooth succumbed to his own personal struggle with PTSD and depression when he took his own life Jan. 2.  A Bronze Star recipient for his noteworthy service in Iraq, Dr. Linnerooth was a consummate advocate for providing comprehensive mental health resources to those in need, for both the warriors who fought and the clinical psychologists who healed them. Yes, even military psychologists (“the Healers”) need help sometimes – in interviews with TIME and the New York Times several years ago, Dr. Linnerooth described the community of military psychologists, of which he was a part, as being overworked, understaffed, and prone to professional burnout.  He acknowledged that the very trauma military psychologists are charged with treating can, if they aren’t careful, destroy the Healers from the inside out.  With nauseating foresight, in describing the demons faced by military counselors just like him, he unknowingly foretold his own heartbreaking destiny. How many tragedies like this must we endure before the government gets serious about providing the VA with the resources it so desperately deserves?  Our veterans, their Healers, and the nation they both serve warrant better. If our country is willing to send its young men and women off to war, then it damn well better find the will to care for these warriors, and their Healers, when they come home.(image)


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Why Are U.S. Vets MIA In U.S. Politics?2009 Armed Forces Inaugural Committeejamisonbc

Mon, 05 Nov 2012 13:46:45 +0000

Why are military veterans so under-represented in Congress? Should we care? In “An Army Apart,” TIME’s Mark Thompson notes “the share of veterans among lawmakers has fallen from 77% in the late 1970s to 22% now.”  This lack of military representation in Congress has painful consequences.  Richard Kohn, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says lawmakers “don’t have a sense of the (military’s) institutions and the culture, so they’re less likely to exercise insightful or determined oversight.” Some blame Ivy League schools‘ banning ROTC — Reserve Officers’ Training Corps — on their campuses for more than four decades, many until last year. That meant that graduates from these “elite” institutions — men and woman who traditionally would be most likely to become future legislators and decision-makers — were for many years under-represented within the military itself. With Ivy League schools now allowing ROTC on their campuses again (with the exception of Brown University), the hope is that in time, as more students cycle through the ROTC programs at these institutions, more veterans will begin to get elected to Congress. Some national security experts have been outspoken advocates about this very issue. Since leaving active duty as a Marine captain in 2010, Matt Pottinger, the president of China Six and a former Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has stressed the need for graduates from our elite colleges to join the military:  “America would be better served if more government decision-makers had military experience.”  Donning the uniform is an important step in creating well-rounded, multi-talented men and woman who can be entrusted with our nation and its defense. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Pottinger explains that leaders with military experience are much less likely to send American troops into combat.  “Few Americans realize it, but our leaders who lack military experience tend to be more hawkish than leaders who have served in the military.  Leaders who are military veterans have been, on the whole, more reluctant to intervene in places like(image)


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Why It’s Time to LeaveScreen shot 2012-08-21 at 2.14.50 PMjamisonbc

Wed, 22 Aug 2012 11:00:40 +0000

One of the three Marine special operations personnel killed in Helmand Province by an Afghan police commander on August 9th was a friend of a close friend of mine. “I don’t even know what to think about this,” was his gut reaction to the news. “Too much raw anger and frustration right now.” I think anger at the rogue Afghans and frustration as to why we are embroiled in such a futile conflict has many Americans scratching their heads and asking themselves why we’re still in Afghanistan. There have been at least 25 such “green on blue” shootings like this one since January, killing 31 U.S. and allied troops. Nearly 11 years after we went into Afghanistan, it’s time we called a spade a spade, admit that we are fighting an endless and unwinnable war, and bring our sons and daughters back home. With a broad and nebulous mission, a resilient and cunning enemy, restrictive rules of engagement, and an Afghan army and police force with dissidents turning their weapons on our troops, we face impossible odds. Combine this with the fact that we have broadcast our intent to leave the country in 2014, and the bottom line is clear: we have no chance of “winning” this war. Our best option, at this juncture, is to bring our brave men and women home as safely and expeditiously as possible. Our warriors have done everything asked of them, and more. They have deployed into harm’s way time and time again, leaving behind their brave and resolute families to struggle on in their absence. Many soldiers and Marines, particularly those in special operations and intelligence units with high operational tempos, have spent more time overseas in the last several years than they have back home. Their children have grown up without them, their husbands and wives have lived under constant uncertainty and fear, and their minds and bodies have endured more hardship than anyone deserves to bear. How much sense does it make to delay our inevitable withdrawal until 2014? The very(image)


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Fighting the Stigmajamisonbc2788132157_ba6e68f0b6

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 11:09:32 +0000

Financed by the Pentagon and produced by the Institute of Medicine, (that influential member of the National Academy of Sciences with particular political and legislative sway), a 400-page report published Friday recommended a broad range of PTSD-related initiatives. They include annual PTSD screenings for troops returning from combat, and a more coordinated approach to supporting those with PTSD between the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. Two factors addressed in the study are cause for concern:  first off, while 20% of our returning veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, barely half of them actually receive treatment; secondly, for those that do receive treatment, the DoD and the VA aren’t adequately tracking the success of their respective treatment programs. Why is it that so few of our men and women who return home suffering from PTSD actually seek treatment?  One word:  stigma. Despite the efforts by leaders up and down the hierarchy within the DoD and the VA to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health counseling, there remains a stark perception amongst much of our veteran and non-veteran population that seeking mental health services is a sign of weakness and dishonor.  Many active duty personnel refrain from seeking help out of an acute fear of potential repercussions from their command, and a strong desire not to become labeled as a “head case” by their peers. Initiatives such as annual PTSD screenings sound great on paper, but until the mindset changes and the stigma of mental health counseling fades away, these annual screenings will follow what’s referred to in the finance realm as “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”  In other words, if stigma prevents service members from being honest on their PTSD screening questionnaires, then any conclusions drawn from those surveys will be fundamentally flawed, at best. What’s also troubling is the fact that between the DoD and the VA, there are a wide array of programs that have been developed for treating PTSD. But there is a lack of consistency with how these programs are implemented by the organizations.  There is also,(image)


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Of Memorial Days, and Sons and Daughters600_bl_arlington_0528jamisonbc

Fri, 25 May 2012 12:07:02 +0000

With the holiday upon us, a friend recently asked me how I planned to teach my children about the importance of Memorial Day.  As a former Marine and veteran of two tours to Iraq, the question surprisingly caught me off guard.  I have written extensively about war and its cruel influence on those who waged it, but the concept of passing the difficult lessons I learned in Iraq on to my children has only rarely crossed my mind. It’s not that I want to keep things from my family. My oldest child is a preschooler, and so until recently my kids have been too young to grasp the concept of patriotism.  My son is only 18 months old and surely too young to understand, but my three-and-a-half year old daughter, a precocious beauty wise beyond her years, has already developed a strong capacity for empathy. She may not yet truly understand the meaning of the flag, or why we place our hand on our heart when we listen to the National Anthem at a ballgame, but somehow she knows that if Daddy cries during ”The Star-Spangled Banner” it’s because he misses his friends. Without fail, when the anthem invokes an emotional response from me, she asks me to pick her up at the end of the song, and she kisses the tears from my cheek.  Embarrassed, I tell her that the tears are Heaven’s raindrops helping wash away Daddy’s sadness.  Although she’s never at a loss for questions, thankfully my explanation always seems to suffice. So now that Memorial Day is here, how do I teach my daughter that the holiday is about much more than just barbecues and American music?  About more than fireworks and festivals? Before I got myself sober, Memorial Day was always a day of drunken mourning; a day to wallow in guilt and anguish for surviving when others did not.  It was a day of morbid reflection, the anticipation of which haunted me for weeks ahead of time.  I was wholly consumed by my twisted thoughts and(image)


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Close Call: Do We Trade Terrorists for Troops?jamisonbcBoweBergdahl

Fri, 18 May 2012 11:22:29 +0000

A few months ago I wrote about the only American service member (at the time) to be missing in action (MIA) in Iraq.  Since then, Staff Sergeant Ahmed Kousay Altaie’s remains have been found and repatriated to the United States, thereby closing a disturbing and emotionally charged chapter of the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, a separate but equally unsettling situation exists in Afghanistan:  Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a member of 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment from Fort Richardson, Alaska, has been missing in action since his capture by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network on June 30, 2009. Despite assurances from the Pentagon that the U.S. is doing all it can to find their son, Bergdahl’s parents went public last week with previously secret attempts by the U.S. government to trade their son for Taliban prisoners in U.S. captivity.  Frustrated by seemingly stalled efforts to free their son, Bergdahl’s parents decided to publicize the proposed prisoner swap, which involved the Obama administration’s agreement to transfer five high-level Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to “loose house arrest or supervision” in Qatar. News of the alleged deal has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, as politicians of every ilk balked at the thought of the long-opposed concept of negotiating with terrorists.  Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, also rejected the proposed transfer:  “We do not negotiate with terrorists.” And yet negotiate with terrorists we do.  According to MSNBC, “The transfer was intended as one of a series of confidence-building measures designed to open the door to political talks between the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government.” What’s most disturbing here, besides the fact that one of our service members has been missing for nearly three years, is the premise that trading one of ours for several of theirs will improve U.S. and Afghan government relations with the Taliban, a group of hard-line religious zealots that feel compelled to spill Western blood in the name of Allah.  What troubles me is the fact that our government, nearly 11 years after we declared(image)


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PTSD…And Cashoriginaljamisonbc

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 11:36:57 +0000

The Army removed Colonel Dallas Homas, commander of Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state, on Tuesday from his post because of an investigation into whether post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses were reversed solely to reduce medical costs on his watch. An ombudsman’s investigation last fall shows that officials from Madigan’s forensic psychiatry team — a group created in October 2008 to review the behavioral health diagnoses of soldiers being considered for medical retirement due to PTSD — encouraged behavioral health professionals to consider the long-term costs to taxpayers of a PTSD diagnosis.  A memo from that probe quoted a member of the forensic psychiatric team lecturing about how a PTSD diagnosis could result in a soldier earning $1.5 million in benefits over a lifetime, and how the hospital should be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. What’s going on here? While I agree that every government institution should be a good steward of taxpayer dollars, driving such alleged cost-cutting initiatives down to the very physicians that are charged with taking care of our nation’s service members is unfair — to both the soldier and the physician. It’s also unwise.  How can anyone expect a doctor to serve two conflicting goals? Medical professionals’ primary responsibility should be the well-being of their patients, not the government’s bottom line.  Just like the separation of church and state, there should be a bright line between physician care and financial mandates.  The focus of medical professionals should be providing the best possible care to their patients. Period. Gutting services like disability payments, which are meant to take care of a veteran for the rest of his/her life, is a disservice not only to that particular service member, but also to the rest of society, whose responsibility it is to take care of its veterans.  Our disabled service members deserve better, as does our society. While bearing in mind that the investigation remains open and therefore unfinished, it’s hard not to jump to conclusions here.  What’s certain is that this is going to be a PR(image)


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A Daughter’s Plea: “Daddy, Please Don’t Leave…”jamisonbcBingham Jamison's final homecoming from Iraq.

Fri, 10 Feb 2012 10:42:25 +0000

The other day I was sitting in my office when my 3-year-old daughter came running in.  She was sobbing, unable to catch her breath or tell me what was wrong.  Her face flush, with red circles emanating from her swollen eyes, she was inconsolable.  In tow came my wife, somber-faced and also on the verge of tears. “What’s wrong?” I asked.  There was no response, just muffled sobs.   Frightened, and fearing the worst, as I’m prone to do, I urged them to answer me. When my daughter finally calmed down enough to speak she pleaded: “Daddy, please don’t ever leave again.”Confused and instantly caught off guard, I was distraught until I glanced down and noticed the picture frame she clutched between her little hands and against her shuddering chest. In a small silver frame, she held the grainy yet powerful image of the embrace shared between me and my wife, a symbolic moment showing the raw emotion that accompanies a warrior’s return from war.  My gear strewn on the ground around us, her legs lifted off the grass as she jumped into my arms. Our embrace, the moment when we could each finally exhale and thank God for my homecoming from my final deployment to Iraq, is a cherished memory for us both.  However, when my daughter saw the same picture for the first time that day, rather than focus on the celebration captured, she instead thought of what could have been.  Where we saw closure, she saw separation; where we saw joy, she saw grief; where we saw resolution, she saw uncertainty. To her, the possibility of her Daddy having to leave again to protect us in a far away place has become all too real.  Ever perceptive for a 3-year-old, she has consolidated snippets of television programs, adult interactions, and school conversations to form a remarkably accurate picture of why some daddies have to say goodbye to their families to defend their country in a foreign land. I am grateful to answer her truthfully:  “Sweetie, Daddy doesn’t have to(image)


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