Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Today is Monday May 11, 2015. This is an interview with George Kamps
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about growing up in Wisconsin. He discusses going to University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and then starting work full-time.
Map Coordinates: 44.620, -88.762
Partial Transcript: Kamps: So end of '68, early '69, January '69 I got my draft papers.
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about receiving his draft papers, attending boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Station, and getting delayed entry. He talks about getting married before going on active duty.
Map Coordinates: 42.312, -87.841
Partial Transcript: Kamps: I reported to "A" school, radar school at Great Lakes, in August and then was down there
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about his reasons for going to radar school and living with his wife in California.
Map Coordinates: 33.746, -118.254
Partial Transcript: Kamps: So getting back to--we left for overseas in October, took about a month to get over there.
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about his station in the Gulf of Tonkin, day-to-day duties, missions, and crossing over the International Date Line.
Map Coordinates: 19.75, 107.75
Partial Transcript: Kamps: The highlight of the trip or that tour to Vietnam was that about six of the wives
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about meeting with his wife in Hong Kong, and buying clothes and a motorcycle. He talks about the journey back to the United States via different countries and going through a hurricane.
Map Coordinates: -14.306, -170.696
Partial Transcript: Kamps: On the way home, we got home in about April, middle of April.
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about completing his undergraduate degree, receiving his Master of Social Work degree from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and working as a social worker.
Map Coordinates: 43.078, -87.881
Partial Transcript: Kamps: For me it worked fine. I had a career, I got involved in Green Bay at a marriage and family therapy agency
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about his work as a marriage and family therapist in Green Bay (Wiconsin) and travelling around the area running small support groups for veterans.
Partial Transcript: Kamps: I didn't know the term burnout until then. Four years of that, we had grown so much they just kept coming.
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about the mental and physical state of veterans he worked with, being overwhelmed by the work and experiencing burnout. He talks about taking a new job with the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and opening his own private practice.
Map Coordinates: 44.479, -88.226
Partial Transcript: Kamps: But I met Tim—let's see how did I—Tim Mayer had approached St. Norbert Abbey about the same time when I retired
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about meeting co-founder of Artists for Humanities, Tim Mayer, and setting up the program. He talks about the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and different treatment programs available.
Map Coordinates: 44.457, -88.044
Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Do you remember when, and how, you first became familiar with the phrase PTSD?
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about when the term PTSD was first introduced to him and gives examples of how group therapy sessions can be effective in changing detrimental thinking and behaviors in veterans.
Partial Transcript: Kamps: As I got to talk with Tim and then we started doing some of the work we got support from the Abbey
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about beginning monthly art therapy sessions at St. Norbert Abbey, he reflects on the process and method of sessions, and describes some of the experiences that veterans have depicted in artwork. He talks about how the manifestations of PTSD have affected spouses.
Partial Transcript: Kamps: That's kind of catching up to Tim and I, and now we've been doing it for five years or so.
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about the art therapy sessions today, Tim Mayer's work at Tomah Veterans Affairs Hospital, finding funding, and working with different outside groups.
Map Coordinates: 44.000, -90.496
Partial Transcript: Kamps: The applications are unlimited as far as how anyone can use that right brain resource to identify
Segment Synopsis: Kamps talks about the positive impacts on the lives of veterans when they take part in art therapy and explains the psychological theories behind it.
See below for link to Session 2 with George Kamps.
[Session 1, File 1]
BROOKS: Today is Monday May 11, 2015. This is an interview with George Kamps whoserved with the US Navy Reserve on the USS Decatur during the Vietnam War, July 1969 to 1975. The interview is being conducted at the Madison Public Library, the interviewer is Ellen Brooks and the interview is being recorded for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. So let's just start at the top. If you can tell me when and where you were born and just a little about your life before you entered service.
KAMPS: Okay. George Kamps. I was born in Clintonville, Wisconsin in 1948. Myparents owned a greenhouse in Clintonville so it was a community business. And I had four older siblings at that point in time. We lived there in Clintonville till I was three years old and then due to my dad's health--because he had--during World War II he didn't serve in the military but he ran the business and he worked as a guard at the Four Wheel Drive [Auto Company] plant in 00:01:00Clintonville which was producing military vehicles so they needed a guard force. He'd work the three to eleven shift through those years and ran the greenhouse so his health declined and he had to get out the business for a while. We moved to a farm in Freedom, Wisconsin in an area where my Mom was born and grew up. We were there for-- until I was about eight years old, then we moved back to Green Bay where my dad went back into business with his brother in the greenhouse business. I went to grade school.
In 1961 we moved back out to the Oneida area and my mom and dad developed aretail business from what had been a wholesale greenhouse, just raising crops and selling to other greenhouses. We raised vegetable plants, flower plants and they developed the business. So by the time I was sixteen going to high school I was the delivery boy, I was the go-to guy in the greenhouse so it was a busy 00:02:00life. A greenhouse, when you own a glass house, like running a farm under glass. You have to do pretty much everything a farmer has to do including keep everything watered, keep it from freezing in the winter, and do a lot of planting and seeding and transplanting. So it was a busy life.
Graduated from high school in 1966, had done well in school, had--God gave me agood mind, and so I got through those years pretty well, went to school at UWGB [University of Wisconsin-Green Bay] in 1966, '67. It was a two year campus at that time and it was close to Green Bay, close to where I lived, so I lived at home, could afford to go to GB, get started with college. After two years of college, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. It was summer of '68, decided I--I had a good job after school so I decided to quit school and work full-time 00:03:00from the summer into the end of the year, expecting to get drafted.
So end of '68, early '69, January '69 I got my draft papers. At that time, youknow, reading the paper, the escalation in Vietnam was prominent, the Tet Offensive had occurred in January '68, we had probably our most troop commitment, over five hundred thousand troops by early '69 and they were needing a lot of soldiers, lot of army personnel. And I kinda made my decision at that point, I really didn't want to go on the ground in Vietnam. So I signed up for the Navy Reserve in Green Bay which allowed me to go to Basic Training in the summer of '69 down at Great Lakes [Illinois] but then come back to Green Bay for a year before - it was a delayed entry. I really didn't have to go to Active Duty until August, June of '70. That allowed me to return to school, get a 00:04:00couple more semesters in. I started kinda working toward--working with people so I took sociology courses and there was no social work program on the campus yet but at least I had somewhat of a direction, or I was headed at that point, figured I could go into service, come back on the GI Bill--finish up.
Went to boot camp, nine weeks at Great Lakes, came back home. Interestinglyenough I had a psychology class that fall and I had to write a paper on identity and I came back from boot camp and wrote an "A" paper on how you lose your identity. The drastic contrast between arriving at Great Lakes on a Sunday night and seeing eighty other guys that look like they're from all over the Eastern half of the country and talk like that. Then the next morning we shipped everything personal back home, got our hair cut down to nothing, got new clothes 00:05:00and everybody looked alike, except for their accent. Having gone through that sense of loss of identity in basic, came back and could write about but I also was able to take a step back from the indoctrination of boot camp and return to civilian life with my own decision making, going back to school, having some freedom and it gave me a little insulation from the brain washing that all basic training does to a person. Then they send you off to a school right away, or they send you off to a duty station and you're in their world. There's no looking back. That was a benefit to me, I think looking back, when I came back home from boot camp, two more semesters of school.
My wife and I had been dating for a couple of years so we wanted to get marriedbefore I went on active duty in 1970. We planned for a June third or June 00:06:00wedding expecting I had to leave for active duty in middle June. Without telling her I put in a request to the Navy for a hardship delay which put off going on active duty for two months. I didn't tell her I got it so I didn't have to go report until August third of that--1970. After we got married on my birthday, May twenty-third and coming back down the aisle I informed her that I didn't have to go on anywhere until August and she started crying so the wedding pictures kinda look like she's either really sad that she married me or really happy about something else. That was a good--we had a good couple of months together.
I reported to "A" school, radar school at Great Lakes, in August and then wasdown there until December going to radar school. Got my duty station in December 00:07:00of 1970 to report to the [USS] Decatur out in Long Beach, California. First of January or so. I had some time to go home on weekends during those fall months when I was going to radar school, could get on the train home to Green Bay, have time at home, go back on Sunday night. It extended our relationship building a bit. I reported to duty in Long Beach in January and toward the first of February, I think, she had contacted me because she had had a miscarriage. I remember racing around the ship, it was on a weekend and trying to find an office there who could sign my permission to take emergency leave but I did get back home, we spent a couple weeks together and then we made the decision--she was already working in nursing having graduated in June of '70--she was working 00:08:00in nursing in Green Bay but we figured it was an important time to be together and so we packed up and drove across country in my '60 Chevrolet and got Navy subsidized housing out in the Harbor City area near Long Beach. We had about three months together before I had to--when I got aboard the ship it was in dry dock, it was in this huge concrete bath tub up on blocks and they were repainting, refitting the boilers and doing a little bit of modernizing. I lived with my wife until we drove back home at the end of May 1971.
I flew back and about that time the ship was ready to go out to sea and do sea00:09:00trials, make sure everything worked. We did that through the summer and then in October, on October first we left for Vietnam. They called it a WestPac [Western Pacific] tour, six months the ship was signed to go over for six months with a small group of other ships, some destroyers.
BROOKS: How did you end up going to radar school?
KAMPS: I had to take a test when I enlisted in the Navy Reserve and they said Iscored well and so I had a few different choices--electronic school, radar school, couple of others I suppose. I don't know I was curious about radar I guess. Fortunately when you're a radar man you work in an air-conditioned compartment aboard ship right behind the bridge where the captain or the officer desk is in charge of the ship, where you can see everything. We were just inside that in a dark room with little red lights because you had these scopes that 00:10:00you're watching and there's no overhead lights typically so that you can read these round scopes and see what the radar is detecting. It was just kind of a curiosity, it was challenging area to learn, there's a lot of math involved and you had more knowledge about what was going on because you're privy to more information. Combat information center they called it--CIC--right behind the steering deck. Good group of guys, all of us had gone to radar school. You had to learn to write backwards because we had these big Plexiglas boards. If you weren't watching a scope, you were behind the board writing up information of the ships or planes that we're tracking--what speed and direction they were going in--and you'd write that backwards so the office of the deck could read it 00:11:00on the other side and see what's going on.
We left for overseas in October, took about a month to get over there. We spenttime on Yankee Station which is in the Gulf of Tonkin. That was the general launching area for the carriers and we would typically be assigned what they call plane guard with a couple of other destroyers. The carrier USS Constellation or [USS] Enterprise, one or the other was on station, and we would escort it up and down that same path, same coordinates depending on the direction of the wind they'd fly a launch air craft into the wind. We were off the coast of North Vietnam, far enough that we couldn't see anything. We weren't really under any attack. There were no Chinese planes, no Vietnamese planes or Russian planes coming out at any time to deal with the US Navy. We could have 00:12:00been off the coast of Florida for all we knew. Except that the planes that flew off the carriers--we would rotate to the observation deck outside and we had these huge--you call them Big Eyes--they were binoculars about this long, about this big on the far end. They'd be on a pedestal so you could see quite a distance. We would keep track of the launching and then keep track of the planes that are returning to the carrier and you know, the evidence was there that not all of them returned. We knew that they were running into trouble at times and didn't always make it back.
We would be out at sea probably about thirty days at a time in the Gulf of00:13:00Tonkin and then we'd go back to Subic Bay, Philippines, for R&R maybe from a couple of days to maybe up to a week, I guess. Then go back out to Yankee Station. Some of the destroyers were assigned to a gun line which was closer--five or six miles off the coast--and they would deliver a gun fire support when requested by in-country units and if they needed a gun fire support. Ours did not get that assignment at all so we stayed more than ten to twenty miles off the coast.
I kept a diary as a matter of fact of the days aboard ship and the unusualassignment that we got during the course of being over there was just before Christmas 1971. We got urgent orders to steam to the Indian Ocean off the coast 00:14:00of India because Bangladesh was dealing with some civil disruption, possibly some rebellious people and we had some US citizens in Bangladesh. We were a task force that was sent to that area to evacuate if anyone needed evacuation who were citizens. We got orders to get back to the ship in Subic Bay. We'd get assigned shore patrol periodically to keep order amongst our guys and I happened to have shore patrol. A few of us were sent around to gather up those guys who were having too much fun someplace, find the hotel, we checked places like the 00:15:00Olangapo jail in case somebody got in trouble, we'd find him there but we had to get everybody back to the ship, it was leaving around midnight. I think everybody--maybe one guy didn't make it but it was probably because he was in the hospital, one of our guys and they flew him out later. We steamed to the--through the Strait of Singapore, to the Indian Ocean and hung around there for I think for a couple of weeks. It took a couple of weeks for the mail to catch up to us, we didn't have any mail coming in to us until finally they had sent out a ship with some stores, groceries, food, fuel and a helicopter also brought some mail.
That was an unusual--during the course of that assignment we crossed over theInternational Date Line which in the Navy is a big deal. They call--if you have never done that then you're a pollywog. When you cross over and you go through 00:16:00the ritual of whatever they tell you to do--which is pretty sickening--then you become a shellback. I was a little bit of a defiant guy, I guess, in that I didn't go along with all the Navy traditions so I wasn't going to crawl across the mess deck through garbage or let anybody hit on me or make me their slave for the day. I took a little bit of business for being a--whatever they wanted to call me. I wasn't going to play that game, I was only in for two years or less. I wasn't going to be like those lifers--I'm not a Navy career guy. That was one of the big traditions. Awful, you lose a day when you cross over the International Date Line, when we cross back then you get it back. You can do a do-over. We got back to our duty then after that assignment over Christmas and 00:17:00finished up in about February.
The highlight of the trip or that tour to Vietnam was that about six of thewives one first class, his wife and then four officers, kind of put together a tour and they, they chartered a plane for six of the women. My wife Rita got the information from me and she was able and willing to go so she flew out to LA [Los Angeles], met up with the other five women, they flew out to Tokyo in February and then to Hong Kong and our ship spent nine days in Hong Kong. The other wives met us there. We had a great honeymoon. I'd saved up quite a bit of money. We ate at a different international restaurant every night. We bought 00:18:00some clothes, I had some suits made, they were really inexpensive, by the tailors in Hong Kong. I got some glasses made--eye glasses--Rita got a nice suede coat, I bought a stereo. Actually my main--my dream was to buy a Triumph motorcycle and we got to Hong Kong and the dealership that had cars and bikes for sale didn't have any Triumph at that time but he had a 70 BSA [Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited], 1970. It was brand new in the crate. It was two years older than the current model but it was brand new so I bought a 1970 motorcycle in the crate, hired a sampan down in the harbor, got a transporter down to the pier, we got it onto this boat, brought it out to the ship, put a 00:19:00winch or arm over the side to lift over the side, moved it onto the ship, lashed it to the smokestack and covered it with Vaseline because we'd be going through salt water and it'd be all corroded. Got it aboard safely and then after our vacation with the wives, they flew home and we headed south.
Must have stopped at the Philippine islands one more time I think maybe toreplenish and then we headed for Australia--stopped at three ports in Australia, stopped in New Zealand, stopped in American Samoa on the way back to Long Beach. It was a great roundabout route back to the states that our captain had secured. We were welcome in the three cities in Australia--first one was Darwin which is 00:20:00a real outback city. It was an iron ore shipping city, with Aboriginal people in town living and naturally on the outskirts of town that was really a sight. Then Perth, Australia was the next stop. That had five hundred thousand people, we went golfing there and went over to a Navy base there and Australian personnel served us some good beer and we played their game of darts. I was aboard the ship, I was on duty running the ships radio--telephone, I should say--and we would get calls from different people in the city calling on to see if there are any personnel that wanted to come for a meal or come to their home. Some hospitality, they were happy to visit and I got a call from a single mom with--she had about a nine year old, she worked at the library. She called and 00:21:00we talked and after I was on duty I was able to go and visit her at her home. She made a meal and met her son. Then we went on to Melbourne after that which is a capital city and we went a couple of us guys walked to a college campus and they were--it was a college of optometry I think. It was a weekend so there weren't too many students there but a few were there and came down to the lobby and we visited for a while exchanging stories from our experiences back in the States. They were pleasant and friendly people too.
When we got to New Zealand however, we were travelling with the Enterprise andthe Enterprise had no clear warheads and so there was a group of protestors on the pier in New Zealand and so we didn't get off the main gangway because it 00:22:00would be right in the face of all these protestors. They dropped us off on a different pier and we went into the city kinda the back way, made our way around. I think it was Auckland that we stopped at. Anyway, that was the only encounter where we were not welcomed by everybody.
BROOKS: Do you remember what your reaction was to that? The protestors?
KAMPS: You know it was kind of a shock because when you're travelling and movingaround with the ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, and basically steaming where you gotta go you don't, you kinda take for granted that we're here to help everybody. The idea that there was something about the Navy or the Enterprise in particular with the nuclear--it was nuclear powered I think too. At any rate, 00:23:00that there was animosity toward anything nuclear was kind of a surprise. We didn't get any of that in the news, and we didn't get any newspapers from home. We got the Stars and Stripes which is the military rag sheet that pretty much censored whatever they didn't want you to read. So you're kinda out of it as far as any animosity international at that time--it was kind of a shock.
Made our way back--actually on the way down to Darwin, Australia from thePhilippines we were following a hurricane, we were about a hundred miles behind it. It was moving south so same direction. Being a hundred miles behind the hurricane it was still really rough. A lot of guys had purchased things, stereo, stoneware and all kinds of things so had to lash everything down in the 00:24:00compartment. Our compartment was maybe the size of that room and maybe this room and there were sixteen guys in it so three bunks high and narrow walkways to get around. The guys on the bottom bunk learned not to hand their arm over the side because if something got loose and slid across the floor you could lose something. The seas then were about forty-five foot waves. The destroyers that were side by side had some slides--I took some pictures--the other destroyer parallel with us was going down water was washing over the bow, then it would come up high enough you could see daylight under the bow back about thirty feet. It was going like that. Our ship was a more modern destroyer than the World War II ones which had a simple bow. This one had a hurricane bow so it was more flanged at the top and higher out of the water but it too--from our bridge you 00:25:00could look down and watch as the waves wash over the bow--it disappeared. Then they would come back out of there. Ships tilting fifteen degrees either way it's going up and down like this. Nobody was allowed outside because the waves were coming alongside the ship and you'd be washed overboard. That was one the more exciting experiences with the ocean.
Fortunately I got over being seasick early on right away when we first startedgoing on to the Long Beach for sea trials off the coast of California. I got seasick one time and then I didn't get sick anymore. The seasick came when I was in this little compartment because I had three months of mess duty being new guy on this ship and I was washing pots and pans. I was in this little bitty room about five feet by five feet--there are no windows--and I washing these meatloaf 00:26:00pans. These big deep sinks and it was just a mess and then we were starting to move out into the ocean so that was the one time that being closed I didn't really have a chance to see the horizon which is something that helps you keep your bearings. Anyway, by the time we were in the rough seas some of the guys who had been overseas many times were getting sick--couldn't eat anything, going to the head frequently. The mess decks were a mess because whatever they served in, if it wasn't hard it flowed and it was on the floor and that was a mess. I had a good stomach so got through that.
BROOKS: How long did that last?
KAMPS: We were probably in that rough water for a coupla days. As the hurricanemoved and then kinda dissipated away far ahead of us so it was a couple of days I think at least. Got home by way of American Samoa--that was a beautiful 00:27:00paradise too. Big aqua colored harbor, narrow channel going in, thousand foot emerald green foliage all around the top. It was like a dormant volcano I would say, shape kind of in a circular form and they had a tram, a cable car that went from the base all the way up to the top of that mountain--all the way around. The kids were off of school that day, I don't know if it was just for us but there were kids coming down to the beach and playing, throwing Frisbee and yelling at us and having a good time. It was like a holiday. They didn't get a lot of company but they were happy to see us.
On the way home, we got home in about April, middle of April. I had put in for00:28:00early-out to return to school, tried to get back into the summer term in Green Bay. I got that approved on the way back so once we got back to Long Beach, about April twenty-third I had just about a month to go before I was discharged from active duty and got back home in time to get started in the summer session, June. I think I earned a couple of six credits over the summer and then I graduated in December of '72--with the help of the GI Bill this time. My wife and I rented a home over on the west side--east side of Green Bay. After I graduated in '72, December, I looked for a job for the first six months of '73 but with a degree--a Bachelor's degree in Regional Analysis. GB at that point 00:29:00being a fledgling university it didn't have many concentrations to offer--Regional Analysis was my closest way to acquire some of the sociology courses, psychology courses. But when I started interviewing with some of the county departments, social services around Wisconsin, it was partially my delivery--as far as being maybe kind of a not a real expressive person at the time, maybe more timid--but also trying to tell them what's Regional Analysis and "Why do you think you can do our job as a social worker" was not an easy stretch. I didn't have any practical experience, no internships yet--hey didn't have those going on. After attempting to get a job that way I got--my wife was 00:30:00working as a nurse but she was pregnant and expecting in September and so I got a job laying asphalt and worked with a crew around Green Bay. We put down parking lots and driveways, blacktop.
I had registered to go back to the school--went back to UW-Milwaukee [Universityof Wisconsin-Milwaukee] in September, enrolled in Masters of Social Work program, again with the help of the GI Bill. My wife got a job at St. Mary's Emergency Room, down in Milwaukee. Rebecca was born in September of that year. Let's see, Rita worked nights and she would sleep in the morning and I would watch Rebecca and then I'd go to school in the afternoon. I also got a job stocking shelves at a Jewel Foods store during the sixteen months that we were down in Milwaukee. Got through the MSW program in sixteen months but it gave me 00:31:00thirty six credits more specific clinical courses and diagnosing and social work values. Also I had field placements in three different agencies, one was a day treatment program for juveniles, one was at Jewish Vocational Services in Milwaukee where I worked with youth there and then the third one was at Ozaukee Country Mental Health where I got seven months of training as a therapist under a good supervisor in Ozaukee County. I got a job upon graduation, working for Brown County social services in Green Bay, starting in January of '75. We purchased a house and we were on our way. 00:32:00
BROOKS: And so when were you officially discharged from the Navy?
KAMPS: Well officially I was--as a Reserve, it was a six year commitment, thefirst year was Basic Training and drills at the drill center in Green Bay. Then the two years active duty and then I had three years of inactive. I think I had one more year of inactive because I did some drills in Milwaukee at the Navy Center down there. Then was discharged after the sixth year which would have been, June '75. Yeah. I did have one--after I got back off active duty I did have to go down to Jacksonville, Florida for a two week training as a reservist. That was probably in--when did I get back? Seventy? That was probably in 1973 00:33:00when I was stationed down in Milwaukee. Six total years.
BROOKS: Was there ever any danger being called back up to active duty? Or didyou know you were done?
KAMPS: I think that they could call us back up if your specialty was suddenlyscarce. If they needed a radarman on a ship or someplace they could have called me up. I was vulnerable to that but we never got any notice of any kind. Nor did I think about it as a threat really. I just knew they could do it until you get discharged after your sixth year.
BROOKS: Can you tell me just a little bit, before we move on, just a little bitabout daily life on a ship, everyday life?
KAMPS: When we were escorting the carrier on the Gulf of Tonkin, they put you onport and starboard, they would call it. So twelve hours on, twelve hours off. 00:34:00You'd be in Combat Information Center doing your job as a radarman twelve hours at a time. In the other twelve hours you'd eat--you got meals even if you were on duty, you got a spell for meals--but the other twelve hours you'd be sleeping, cleaning the compartment and whatever else they had you do. I was assigned as the damage control petty officer so one of my extra duties was to check out the fire extinguishers and water tight seals on doors in a certain area of the ship that we were responsible for and make sure that was all run--functioning properly and sign off that fire extinguishers were up to par--that was one extra duty. While we were aboard--while we were doing our duty in CIC, as I said we would be manning the radar scopes, processing information, 00:35:00putting it up where the officer of the deck could see it.
If we were--there were times we would be called for drills where you'd have toreport to your battle stations. Everybody had a duty station. Nobody was sleeping or doing anything else, you had a duty station. The CIC, the combat information room, was full of people because there was a bank of computers over on one wall, that was fire control technicians, and those were specialist who had a very sophisticated radar that could target a specific place, coordinates of maybe five miles. They would be the radar used for the five inch gun or for the Tartar missile [General Dynamics RIM-24 Tartar] that they used aboard ship. That group of guys would be in there manning their consoles and running those radar. Then we would have a lot of other information to gather and continue to provide. 00:36:00
One of the things the air control radar would do is when you man that scoperather than when you're on a surface scope--which would just keep track of ships on the surface up to thirty miles out--if you had the console that was able to scan, it was up probably a hundred miles or more--but you'd be scanning for planes. Our planes had a transponder--an electronic box--aboard that when our radar sent out the signal to pick up the object, it also sent out a code that the box aboard the plane would respond to and give us a number. We could identify that it was one of our planes because of how it respond to us and the screen would show that number alongside the contact, which was the plane moving 00:37:00across. We could report that it was friendly or it was bogey. Bogey would be an enemy plane. Friendly would be no threat--our own. Those are some of the things that the officers were particularly paying attention to during a drill like battle stations.
Otherwise it can be boring. You can have some time to write letters, picked upplaying harmonica and I'd go and sit out on the deck when I didn't have any assignments. I bought a camera in the Philippines and I would use that taking all kinds of different photographs. Keeping the compartment clean. Chipping and painting--any of those kind of duties. While we were in port most of the crew got liberty except for a small group that keep the boilers running and man the 00:38:00phones and things like that. That was a relaxed time. But when you're on Yankee Station, then everybody's pretty busy. You got a lot of things to keep track of, you're communicating with the other ships, you're gathering information. We'd had the internal communications system headphones on your head and microphone in so you'd be speaking to the other people in the room as well as the officer and the bridge, gunnery officer. Everybody who needed to pick up information from us would on that phone line and you'd be communicating that. Those details--what's out there and how far away are they, and what course are they moving and things like that.
BROOKS: Is there another radarman on the ship?
KAMPS: We had sixteen in the radar division. Yeah. We weren't all in there atone time. I'd say a full crew for that shift would be about eight or nine of 00:39:00them. We had lookouts too who are radarmen. Let's say we were refueling, we'd steam alongside another tanker or sometimes we'd be steaming alongside the carrier because they could store a lot more fuel than anybody else so they might need to give us some fuel. We'd travel along at night or daytime for hours with those long hoses connecting to us taking on fuel. We had lookouts outside to keep track of everything that's going on around the outside of the ship as well as personnel inside. So that was a busy time.
BROOKS: What was your homecoming like? I know a lot of people coming back aroundthat time, in that era had some trouble but it seems like you maybe didn't 00:40:00encounter that.
KAMPS: One of the benefits of the Navy is that when we came back our ship cameinto Long Beach Naval Station and the civilians that were on the pier were family of the returning crew members, who were living in the area. There was nobody there for me but there were probably forty, fifty people for our ship and there were many more people there for the aircraft carrier and some of the other ships. There were a lot family--kids and spouses were there. That was my introduction back into the States versus somebody coming back into airport--Oakland, California or up in Washington, or along the coast if you came back to one of those major airports--then you were vulnerable to whoever else is there to welcome you with a different message.
The guys that I met later would talk about that initial impression and even00:41:00getting into San Francisco or Oakland area and trying to go to a bar or restaurant and learning early on that you get rid of your uniform because you're a target for verbal abuse, a lot of disrespectful reactions. And San Francisco was a liberal town. There was not a lot of pro-war demonstrations, it was more anti-war, certainly by 1972. You know, escalated--we were in Vietnam from 1964 officially to '75. So eleven years. There was a lot of animosity at that time. But fortunately coming back into the base you had that insulation. I went back and got discharged and took a flight back to Green Bay, to my wife and family. And Green Bay was not on the cutting edge of anti-war protests. 00:42:00
What I did encounter when I returned to the campus in the fall of '72, therewere--I wore my Navy pea coat. I remember it was a cold fall day and I wore the pea coat to school and there were gatherings around campus because they had something going on called the moratorium on the war [Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam]. So there were gatherings of students having discussions about why we shouldn't be there I guess and just talking about ways to get the government to make a decision and withdraw. When I saw that kind of topic and gathering I skirted that group and I took the coat off and didn't wear that to campus--I didn't want to be identified as a veteran at that time. That's probably the last 00:43:00time I wore anything that would have identified as a veteran until about 1984.
But coming back my wife, my--Rebecca was born in '73, September '73. Like a lotof vets who came back I believe that we were determined to get a job, start your family, save up, buy a house. In my case I needed to get some more schooling so there were things that you typically jump back in toward the American Dream and start getting busy on what everybody else does. Making your effort to do that, you kinda got blinders on, don't get too off course. That lasts for a while and later on I'll find--meet somebody, he's my peer group, who are my age who had 00:44:00come back from infantry or other experiences in Vietnam and they did their best to get back into that groove of family, job, move forward. They got so far with that but they are also coping with the internal mental issues and the moral issues and feeling alien to the general population and not feeling like they fit in even with their family as far as sensitivity to family events. I found they coped in other ways--with alcohol or drugs in some cases. They coped with workaholic behavior, working seventy, eighty hours a week. Some of them moved around a lot, they didn't stay in one job very long. They just got restless or they'd get in--something would disrupt them and they'd go and find another job. They'd move around with job to job. Those are some of the things I found they 00:45:00were doing in that decade after they got out that weren't healthy coping with what was going on but they didn't know what was going on. They didn't understand at the time.
For me it worked fine. I had a career, I got involved in Green Bay at a marriageand family therapy agency and started to develop skills as a marriage and family therapist. In those days a lot more women would call and come in to our agency with children issues or marital issues but not a lot of guys would come with them--it wasn't something many men were willing to access at the time. I actually got into some training as a play therapist. We had a great playroom at family service at the time, designed by a child psychologist who was really pretty gifted in those early years. I developed a range of skills from young 00:46:00children, toddlers in play therapy on up to grade school, adolescents and adults.
Was busy doing that the first--I was there from 1976 until--I took on some otherduties in 1982 in the crisis center and we had a twenty-four hour hotline at that time. There were some programs that were being kind of absorbed by family service that had been fledgling, grassroots agencies. Twenty-four hour hotline--crisis line. That combined with a program for --we call them street workers--but they were counselors that would go out to the schools, go out into the community and work with families in their neighborhood and provide community organizing, provide counseling to the families. Anyway, the agency absorbed that 00:47:00program and developed a full crisis center which had phone counselors as well as mobile-- who could go out to the community upon call. They work with the police, teamed up with the police oftentimes and did some suicide prevention. I took a position that opened up supervising that program in about 1982.
There was a counselor--I'm kinda transitioning to the emergence of the veteransin the community at that point--in the crisis center staff who was a Vietnam Air [Force] veteran--he was in Air Force, didn't serve in-country. He was on the phone lines at night like everybody else--they took their shifts--and he was taking calls in the wee hours of the morning from a few, repeating calls from veterans. He started hearing about their difficulties: they weren't sleeping 00:48:00well or having recurring nightmares, they were staying away from social contacts, they were avoiding people. In some cases drinking too much or using other drugs to relax. He saw a pattern with the numbers that were calling and a need. The agency contacted the VA [Veterans Administration] in Milwaukee and they worked up a contract to provide outreach to veterans. The VA had some money to do that. We had, when--this was Roger Barr [sp??] who initiated this outreach to veterans at that time in 1983. He would meet with a veteran--he would confirm their service time through what we called a DD214--that made them eligible for 00:49:00the outreach. Then he would send that paper work into the vet's center in Milwaukee which was one of those emerging neighborhood storefront kind of agencies that started sprouting up over the country as the government started to realize the number of Vietnam veterans who needed counseling. [inaudible]
BROOKS: I don't know. Yep, I guess so.
KAMPS: Must be on a timer. Anyway, he got that contract, he was able to--theagency was able to get paid for each session and he developed small "rap" groups they called them at the time. He had a couple of "rap" groups made up of maybe five or six veterans in a group. He travelled to Shawno County and started one there. In 1984 he and I were fishing up in boundary waters of Canada in a canoe and he started telling me more about the numbers of veterans coming forward and 00:50:00the need for them to get together, start talking, and that's kinda where he--I don't know if he knew I was a veteran or not--started talking about it and we confirmed I'd served. He asked me if I was willing to do a group, another group because he couldn't keep up. After that fishing trip and hearing about it I agreed to, as part of my job duties at the agency, among the other things, do an afternoon group once a week and I started with maybe four or five, six guys, veterans that came in to start talking.
In '84 the agency got a grant for a year and covered my travel expenses and Iagreed to travel up to Door County. One day a week I'd travel up to Door County, come down to Kewaunee and Manitowoc County, back to Green Bay. What I was doing 00:51:00was going out there and trying to beat the bushes with the Veterans Service officer of that county with any of the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] posts, any of the veteran related groups in those counties. "You have any younger veterans around here that you're aware of? Anybody that you're concerned about. Can you give me any names?" I was drumming up connections that I could go to their door and talk to them and in that years' time, once a week travelling around we--I got the names of and spoke with probably twenty-five, thirty veterans, Vietnam era and I actually got a group started in Manitowoc and got space to meet at the family services counseling office in Manitowoc.
Then I also met at the, it was like the AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]--the community00:52:00center in Sturgeon Bay that had AA meetings--and I got a group started up there. Once a week I'd make those trips and meet with those who had decided they would be willing to come together and you know kinda get that small group trust level and once they started to gather around the table and started to share what branch of service were you in, what years were you in, where did you serve in Vietnam, what were your duties. Everybody started picking up on that, they could relate to some part of it, whether it was boot camp or after that. The conversation started to flow and they desperately needed to be in a room where they didn't have to explain themselves to somebody. I think that contagion really picked up.
Roger Barr [sp??] left the agency in 1985--September--and I agreed to take overthe program so that's where I jumped in with both feet from what I had been doing with general counseling. The crisis center took over that outreach to 00:53:00veterans so over the course of the next four years we had--it really mushroomed from the groups that he had started to, we had a large group of about twenty-five veterans coming once a week and I was counseling some of them individually. They'd come to the group. Sometimes they or their spouse would say they needed help and they'd come in with their spouse, we'd do couple counseling. Once the women started to speak up they said, "We need a group, we're isolated, we don't know how to deal with this guy, it's really hard, it's always tense." So we started up a support group for spouses or significant others. So the men would meet downstairs in the agency Thursday night, the women would meet upstairs. Shortly--within months after they start coming together the women said, "You know our kids are really at a loss. They're walking on 00:54:00eggshells around the house all the time; they don't understand Dad's moods. They don't know what makes him angry." So we started up a group for the kids too. Six years to eighteen years was the age range for about ten or twelve kids that would come in for the meetings.
I didn't know the term burnout until then. Four years of that, we had grown somuch they just kept coming. Word of mouth would get other vets to come in. When they come in they're tired out guys, they'd try to get along without dealing with anybody for years. Nothing they did was working, alcohol, drugs, working too much, end the relationship, find somebody else, end another relationship, find somebody else, change jobs. They came in tired because they were not coping and I--you meet with somebody who's finally broken down enough to where they 00:55:00gotta call and say "I don't know what to do anymore" and they come in, they're pretty well emotionally beat I think. Sometimes physically they look a lot older because they haven't been sleeping, work too much, treat themselves like crap, don't got to the dentist, don't go to the doctor. They're looking pretty rough and so they kept coming. I probably assessed, I've figured roughly three hundred combat veterans in about five years. Every one that came in was beat down tired and you'd have to start all over again, trying to start educating them on what happened, why a person would experience these things. Why there was unfinished business. Why there was unfinished grief. Why there was a sense of shame or feeling different than everybody else. Why they would have reflexes in a grocery store or at their home from loud noises and feel ashamed and embarrassed and not 00:56:00being able to explain to anyone what that's all about. I mean they were tired, really tired out.
When they would share something from the past you could just see in their eyesthat they were really struggling to let something out finally and hoping that you would not want to get the heck away from them. They were all afraid that if they started to discuss feelings they would go crazy, they would fall apart, they would be just a basket case and of course they worked really hard not to let their feelings get out of control because that was something they learned in the military: You have to stay focused, you have to do your job, stay objective, that's what you have to do or you're going to die or somebody else is going to die around you. They cautiously would build up enough trust to give something personal and that was one of the things they had been carrying and hadn't told 00:57:00anybody. Or they'd start talking about their recurring nightmares that would never stop. Their wives were troubles by their restlessness and their making noise and stuff and their nightmares. The whole family was tired, emotionally stressed.
By '89 I guess I could blame it on my agency for not giving me a decent raisefor two years and not giving me anymore help but certainly it was taking a toll on me. I could tell that my attitude, my optimism, was diminishing and they were affecting me more than I was affecting them. I got enough courage and a fishing friend of mine who was saying, "You gotta get out of there George. You can't keep this up." I applied for a job out at Oneida which was a place--the agency 00:58:00there was beginning to grow, the tribe was making some money. Their casino--their bingo and then casino to follow was making money. They had money to spend on housing, education and I had lived out there as a teenager when it was tar paper shack and junk cars in the front yard. At that time they didn't have much money, it was a poverty stricken reservation like most of them were--although not as bad as in the western states. Their behavioral health program consisted of a half time counselor at that time and they were expanding to a full time position so they hired me as a full time counselor. I'd had some contact with the substance abuse staff that was working there. They had an alcohol and drug treatment program outpatient that had been started and growing 00:59:00for about probably six or seven years by then. They had invested in certifying and establishing staff to treat drug and alcohol on the reservation which was a priority but that was the initial program and I was the first full time therapist in '89--April of '89.
That program started to grow, they had funds to put into the budget, they hadtraining for us, they could hire more people and over the course of the next nine years, till 1998, the program grew to six or seven therapists, probably eight or nine substance abuse counselors, a psychologist, two part time psychiatrists, a veteran service office for the reservation for Native Americans. That was the first one that I know of, maybe a few others but the VA 01:00:00was working hard to get representation on the reservation because Native American veterans were not accessing the VA. That's typical--they didn't trust and they didn't go there. They relied on their own people. We got a veteran service office started and I stayed there till 2008 when I retired from there.
For me it was an important extraction from that intense program at familyservice where so many veterans were coming forward and many more were following. I got separated from that intense position but I was also able to start up a private practice because when you work for family service you couldn't moonlight. Working for the tribe which was eight miles out of Green Bay, they 01:01:00didn't mind if I opened up an office in Green Bay. I went to work with a psychiatrist who was private practice and started working about twelve hours a week on my own. A number of the veterans that I had gotten to know and treat were finding me and following me. I also got a vets program out at Oneida. We were treating some of the Native American veterans. The veterans service office out there, we were working together. If they got a veteran coming in for benefits on the reservation he could refer them to me at the behavioral health. I could do an assessment for PTSD, put together the diagnosis and support the diagnosis with evidence, combine that with a claim to the VA and that veteran could get benefits, established that they were disabled due to post traumatic stress. We worked together to get some services and benefits to the veterans, 01:02:00Native American veterans.
My private practice got started and never looked back. 1990. I just closed thatat the end of April. I've had ongoing veterans who I've treated for a number of years and I've had new referrals every so often based on word of mouth. From '89 when I left family service 'cause I was about to go under emotionally, until 2008 I was at Oneida. When I retired from the full time position at Oneida, I didn't know what I would do with my spare time other than--I did work two days a week at my own office after that, had two groups going of veterans, I did some 01:03:00couple counseling, individual, had about twenty five clients, all veterans. That kept me busy a couple days a week.
I met Tim--let's see how did I--Tim Mayer had approached St. Norbert Abbey aboutthe same time when I retired asking if they would consider helping him establish a setting for expressive art. He had been working with veterans and their families since 2003 and had done some portraits--large oil portraits for the families who lost someone in war--and he had got some exposure down at the Capitol here. They'd had a couple of events where they honored the families, he gave them the portraits and that was featured in the press to recognize and 01:04:00appreciate the families who'd lost someone. His commitment to honoring veterans was getting stronger and deeper. And by the time I met him in 2008, he was looking at not just honoring those who had died in service and the families, but what could he go for the existing veterans, the returning veterans who were affected by trauma. The idea of utilizing expressive art, getting people to draw from their memories was his developing objective.
I was called to meet with Tim at the abbey with a few other staff there. Wehad--Jim Smiths was another social worker who is retired now who I worked with over the years. He was a veteran, twenty years in the reserves, officer. And Jim 01:05:00Smiths knew I'd been working with veterans for years. He introduced me to Tim and said "I think you might be the one to talk with Tim about what he's trying to get started and you may have some contacts with veterans who might benefit from this." So Tim and I started meeting and I invited him to one of the groups that was meeting at my office--introduced him to a few of the veterans, talked about his idea.
I saw potential because over the years I'd counseled, traditional ways you know,verbal assessment and using various counseling methods to help a person to identify issues that were blocking their personal growth, give them tools, help them understand what could be affecting them negatively from their past history, 01:06:00whether it's childhood, family, Vietnam or anything else. Looking at those obstacles, helping them remove those obstacles in therapy. But it was really difficult for me to just rely on verbal therapy to help that person go back and revisit traumatic memory. There was a lot of avoidance of that. A lot of their energy was of don't look at it, don't think about it, try to avoid it at all costs. But they had no real control over flashbacks, nightmares and we spent a lot of time helping them to identify what are things that trigger your recollection involuntarily. Triggers are things that you don't realize until all of a sudden something gets your attention and you're right back to the event. It's dominating your mind and your body all again, all at once, no matter who's around you or where you are, you're back in it. That would spontaneously 01:07:00dominate these veterans many times a year. As far as getting them to address it in therapy it wasn't that easy--they don't wanna go there.
Tomah [Veterans Administration Medical Center]--the treatment program atTomah--was working with a lot of the veterans I met and once we get them established and they were needing to go into an inpatient treatment program to really kinda immersed and understanding, learn some skills. They'd go down to Tomah and during those years Dr. Gary Palmer was a psychologist who headed up the first PTSD treatment program at Tomah in the early eighties on forward until his retirement probably a decade later. He was doing some good work in learning what is more effective, or what is effective in treating post-traumatic stress. 01:08:00That was a whole new diagnosis along with needing to learn more of the types of treatment at that time. It wasn't established as a diagnosis by American Psychiatric Association until about 1980. Before that and I just talked with retired psychiatrist who worked with the VA in Milwaukee in the early seventies and he said that "We were getting these veterans coming back again to the hospital but they were severely depressed, they were anxious, we thought that their flashbacks meant that they were schizophrenic. They're having auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations." That's what they were making out of this because they hadn't had any official description of post-traumatic stress disorder. 01:09:00
Psychiatric roles certainly should be aware of the examples of human overloadthat we saw in Korea, World War Two, World War One, Civil War. I mean they got terms for it--soldier's heart, shell shock, battle fatigue and so on--all the way back to the Greek wars, there's evidence there were people who were overwhelmed and couldn't function. They were saturated with the emotional overload and confusion. Psychiatric roles should have been a little more assertive. But they questioned these returning veterans and I think that contrasting to earlier generations of veterans, the Vietnam veterans were of the sixties and there was more inclination to speak up, to voice--demand better services, to start to seek out on behalf of the larger numbers of veterans and put some pressure on the system to respond. Korean veterans were the silent 01:10:00ones, they didn't really protest, they--we didn't have a memorial in Wisconsin until--that was dedicated--down at Plover that was dedicated maybe ten years ago. Ten years ago, that's fifty years after Korea and no effort to gather and acknowledge them or honor them and they didn't push it either.
Vietnam veterans were called crybabies by some of the older veterans. "Get overit. What are you crying about?" I think those were--that was the generation of veterans that finally said enough is enough. Once they start coming together and talking to each other in those groups, they started to recognize that "Well I'm not the only crazy one. You all talk the same way I do, or you see things, where you're experiencing things, or things are happening in your life, just like me" It became much more broadly recognized as a wholesale effect on those who served 01:11:00in Vietnam--they began to put their voices together. 1986 in Brown County there was a final effort, initially an effort to raise the funds and construct the memorial for those who died in Brown County. That was a dedicated in 1986. That was based on the gathering of support from many of the veterans who joined the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in Brown County. Two of the guys who established that chapter for VVA in Brown County were coming to a group, that first daytime group that I was doing at family services. Those two guys, once they started communicating with other vets, they were a little more politically 01:12:00savvy and they said, "We're going to get a charter for a chapter here in Green Bay Vietnam Veterans chapter." That across the country was growing at a rapid rate because the time was ripe.
After all, ten, fifteen years after getting out of the service, going theirseparate ways, when they started to communicate finally it was long overdue. The numbers grew fast; there was three hundred plus members in that VVA chapter in just a few years. It grew so far. Those are the guys that lobbied for a memorial in Green Bay and raised the money through fundraising, no government money. They said, "We'll do it ourselves". One of my classmates from high school, Hubert Joskie [sp??] is a Vietnam veteran. He had a construction company, he brought in the equipment, they landscaped it, they had another group of veterans who were skilled in monument and gravestone building and placing and they created the 01:13:00foundations, got the granite carved with fifty four names of those from Brown County. They did it in a short amount of time. It was long overdue. I think once they started communicating with one another and realized how much they had in common, and how much they'd been struggling, and questioning what they did or what others did or what the government did in Vietnam. The force grew rapidly as they compared their lives.
BROOKS: Do you remember when, and how, you first became familiar with the phrase PTSD?
KAMPS: Would have been about 1983, '84 when I first met with and talk with Roger01:14:00Barr [sp??] I don't know, I was aware that the agency had supported Roger's getting that first group started based on the crisis center efforts so I was probably getting some initial examples of that and starting to be curious about it. I remember travelling down to Tomah, visiting with Dr. Gary Palmer, along with Roger and myself and two other veterans from the group. Went down there to see what they did--what it all involved, how many weeks does a person stay there and getting kind of a crash course in PTSD from Dr. Gary Palmer who was well into the documentation of many veterans now that had come through the door and seeking treatment there. And as psychologists he was putting together the assessment questions and the things to look for. The symptoms that were kinda grouping in the veterans as far as their sleep problems, their hyper alertness, and flashbacks, some of those terms starting to emerge as real recurring 01:15:00symptoms. He was kinda documenting the frequency and the cluster of symptoms that were attributable to Vietnam veterans who were talking and seeking treatment.
That kind of exposed--not convinced me--but gave me a crash course of what theywere doing down at Tomah in the nine week program and having visited there came back with a whole lot more energy to assess for those things and to work toward referring those veterans who just weren't making it at home with outpatient groups, things were just falling apart and getting them prepared to go down to Tomah and go through the inpatient program and then come back to Green Bay and get back involved in the group and share what you're learning. Some of them did 01:16:00come back and they brought back examples of what they called dream work at Tomah was in their therapy group they'd ask for a volunteer to put one of their dreams out there for others to learn about and they'd have a big chalk board and they'd put that person at the chalkboard and drawing what they could remember and allowing other veterans to chime in with questions or suggestions about what else might be part of that picture and then they would encourage that veteran to name that dream after it took shape and it was a story on the board and others had chimed in.
Then that veteran could name his own dream it was the first step I think ofexternalizing something that had been very powerful, very harsh and very controlling in a person's mind. Putting it on a board for others to see and own it. "This is--I'm calling it this. This is my dream." taking charge of something that had otherwise been chasing them for years and so some of the guys would 01:17:00bring that therapy method back to group and we did some of that in group. The trust was sufficient where a veteran would be willing to volunteer and work on that within the group and that was one of the unusual methods outside talk therapy that I saw and started to get a sense of "Boy, that's very powerful if they can put that on the board." Then once they'd invite other veterans to chime in based on their experiences--what might be going on in this dream, what are some other things you might have thought of--they could start to question the person's magical thinking that they were in charge of this dream. Or they were in charge of the original event back in Vietnam where they blamed themselves or they were guilty or they were inadequate or they had done bad things or they had not done things that they should have done.
They could challenge some of that magical thinking--the old two plus two equals01:18:00five problem. How you are going forward based on bad math. Your conclusions are not accurate but that showed me the importance of getting that image, that psychological image or memory or picture out on the externalized where others can help you with it. They might even help that person to--sometimes the dream wouldn't complete and a person would have and it would stop right here, or stop right here and sometimes once they got the conversation rolling with the other veterans, they could say, "Where do you see this dream ending up? Where would you want it to end up? Where do you think it should end up? What happened after that?" The person might imagine what else might--how else might it end or impose some of their own thinking--where do they want it to end? How do they want it to end? What do they want it to teach them? So it began to open up that possibility 01:19:00of letting that image of the mind kind of play out in their hands and lead it to a conclusion that they could live with. Some of those kinds of things started to happen with the help of the other people, helping to complete that picture.
Those earlier experiences helped prepare me for responding to Tim with, "Hey Ithink you've got something there. I would like to look into that with you." The idea that veterans could draw out things and describe what it means. I'd seen some inkling of that early on, never really had the opportunity to pursue it after I left family services and I was limited with the talk therapy on how to help someone walk through an experience that was just really devastating and would take them to the same emotional conclusion every time we talk about it. I was kind of stuck at times. It's hard to help them resolve that and not be worn 01:20:00down by the same recollection or stuck with the same bad math.
As I got to talk with Tim and then we started doing some of the work we gotsupport from the Abbey, they let us use a very well lit, large open room at the Abbey. Tim had already secured a lot of donated materials from Blick--which is an art distributor, art products and art materials distributor, lot of businesses have it. He approached them; they donated over ten thousand dollars' worth of art supplies to him at one point. Early on in about 2009 or so. We had the place, the facility. We had the materials. We had a few of my guys who had 01:21:00shown a little bit of bravery to give it a try. We start to do the monthly sessions at the Abbey, on Thursday afternoons once a month. Had a few people, it was meager at first but all we needed to see this as a good direction was to see even the first few--we'd get together one o'clock, after introductions everybody meeting one another, set up the agenda for the afternoon. "Okay, take a look at those materials, whatever you want to draw or to pick up, you go right ahead. Color pencils, chalk, pastels, charcoal, a pencil and a piece of paper. Whatever you want. Find what you want and find a place, see what you draw."
We were seeing immediate choices of things that were prominent. Whatever was at01:22:00the top of the mind when they would think "Well what do I wanna draw about?" With limited instructions and what they would draw was usually pretty significant event. When they would even put a few stick people down but then write a few sentences to describe what that represented we could see that they were choosing something significant and what they wrote was pretty powerful. You could see why it may have been on their mind and with mixed emotions associated--dilemmas, binds that they were in. Things they did that caused harm. Things they didn't do that they should have. Things that they witnessed that they didn't stomach very well or they didn't believe that was acceptable. Just the destruction--the destruction of the land, they dropped napalm. Napalm, 01:23:00everything's destroyed--burnt to a crisp. When they dropped Agent Orange, everything dies on the vine. It just looked like the landscape of the moon. So there was the destruction of land, there was the destruction of lives, civilian lives, men, women, children, buddies. There was just a lot of destruction and many of them never really addressed that loss.
When they drew a picture of something that involved any portion of thatdestruction it was usually pretty powerful and then we get back together at the end of the session in a circle and they had the option to share if they wanted to with everyone in a circle. Somebody might hold up their picture for them while they pointed to it and described what it represented and get positive 01:24:00acceptance and appreciation for what they'd shared. That discussion and sharing in that circle was really evident that it was a very important step and a relief for that person to take that risk. To put that out there that this is a part of my story, this is something I have been carrying. This is something I'm ready to show you. There was a respect for it--bar none.
We had a couple of wives that were coming and they could certainly speak fromtheir perspective on what PTSD was doing to their spouse. Initially not necessarily too much able to say how the secondary effect was having on them. Excuse me. But as they began to draw one of the couples that was coming 01:25:00regularly- in fact there's a couple of her pieces that'll be in the exhibit- she used collage and she would have a large poster board and she would start finding her pictures at the beginning of the session and she had put together some awesome collection of images and when she would interpret it to us there was a lot of deep thought and as a partner to a vet and seeing it through her eyes, seeing him through her eyes, seeing her own response to the craziness or the confusion over the years and what it did to her to back up in the shadows. She'd have these two eyes looking out of a closet at the rest of the picture that was one of the things I remember. That's how she felt. She backed up as close, as far out of that danger zone when he was upset, as she could and her eyes would witness those things. She and the other spouses began to educate us and illustrate more of the secondary effects that were daily affecting them over the 01:26:00course of, you know, ten, twenty, thirty years. Living with, trying to love, trying to understand, being kept at arm's length from someone who wouldn't let them in on the personal hell and didn't want to burden, or didn't want to be ashamed or didn't want to scare somebody off so it didn't get talked about. The wives were kept at arm's length.
However, one thing I've noticed is those couples that are together. It usuallytook a strong willed woman who was determined to love that person, despite that persons feeling unworthy and to continue to treat them as if they were worthwhile. Those veterans oftentimes did stay with--stay the course of learning more about and acknowledging PTSD and wanting to learn about the tools. When 01:27:00they were able to do that finally then they could start giving back to their spouse after all those years. Those are two people that have been--when they're still together and they're both learning, they're on the same playbook, they are definitely making some progress toward a more meaningful and fulfilling relationship after a long drought.
That's kind of catching up to Tim and I, and now we've been doing it for fiveyears or so. 2009. Going on six years. The sessions at the abbey are still moderately attended. You might have as many as fifteen on a busy day and as few as four on a not so busy day but we have a lot of repeating--a lot of continually returning. Couple of veterans that have pieces at the museum for the exhibit have attended for over a year. They've got a dozen different drawings, 01:28:00all of them significant, and in many cases more positive further they go with it. After they release the poison stuff that has led to them seeing that there is more to life or there's more to them or they have some influence over where they go with this because they've taken that risk of facing these issues and letting other people in on it, and getting some support for it so they don't have to carry it on their own shoulders. Once they've taken those tough steps, that has led to them getting in touch with other kinds of healing and you know, progressive things inside of that. The human spirit is very determined if you give it a little daylight.
We've seen some more positive, more hopeful drawings once they start accessingthat they have a future, that there is something they can move toward rather 01:29:00than "Don't bother, it never turns out good anyway, kind of thing." So when they continue that's what we're seeing, we're doing a lot more feedback, soliciting, we're changing the forms from time to time to recognize a repeating veteran whose been coming for a while. "What do you see now? How do you see things differently? Has this been benefit? Would you be willing to invite someone else with you?" Things that will give us a sense of how is their confidence growing within themselves as well as in wanting to influence somebody else to come in with them. Evidence based is what it's all about in many different treatment programs--you want some evidence that you're making some headway and so we're making an effort to gather that feedback regularly. 01:30:00
Tim of course--once we go into the Tomah VA--he and I had gone down there mustbe four years ago- we went down there to do presentations to the staff members, the treatment staff, we got a chance to talk with the infamous Dr. Hoolihan--who has been in the news. He was the director of--medical director, I think, of the Tomah treatment program. He's been suspended recently because over medicating and issuing opiates, yeah, and what's been standard round the rest of the country. We met with him and he's kind of a photographer. In his office he had photographs of family and outdoor things and he's kind of an artist in a hobbyist way so he kinda got it, you know, as far as what those impressions can stand for. Remember the one afternoon, after going to the staff and he said 01:31:00"Yeah, we're gonna do this." He just issued an edict to the rest that said, "Yes you're going to do this. You're going to make time and sit on these sessions. We're going to try it out." We were in.
That was a big springboard because that gave Tim the opportunity to involve nowover two thousand veterans have participated through the Tomah treatment program but they're a captive audience, "This is part of our treatment, we're gonna have you draw today." He has groups every time he goes down there. He's down there today, tomorrow and Wednesday. Get invited into the substance abuse, dual-diagnose treatment program which is substance abuse and mental health issues combined in some way. He goes into that treatment program. He goes into PTSD treatment program and the staff- the occupational therapists, the art therapists- those staff members plus the therapists, psychologists are seeing 01:32:00some very revealing stories coming out of these sessions when the veteran's in there doing the drawing. They're finding that the veteran may have been in group for a few weeks but he's not saying a whole lot or he's not risking a whole lot then he draws these pictures, something that's huge so they get a lot more mileage with that afterwards in the group discussions because of what's been put on the table. The other veterans can see it and they can investigate more about what does that mean to you? Or they can chime in and say "I can relate to that because--" The staff has been very supportive because what Tim gets revealed at these sessions gains the staff a lot more traction in their treatment sessions afterward. There we've gotten just a lot more exposure at Tomah. Once we got 01:33:00established there that gave us a lot more credibility, we had a lot more responses to draw from as far as what it can do.
We've since approached other funding sources to show them evidence and be ableto secure their support. The Potawatomi Foundation in Milwaukee has funded us two times now and they have asked us to establish an expressive art session for Native American veterans--Tim's working with them on a site. Their funding last year enabled Tim to establish a session at the VETS Place Central which is a homeless shelter for veterans. It's a pretty busy place, a lot of different 01:34:00veterans staying there at different stages of where they're at. He's going down there two afternoons a month. He just emailed us that he had been in touch with Amber__ [??] social worker at King, so he's got an initial session set up because they wanted him to offer a session. They have a lot more Vietnam era veterans now coming to King at different stages of illness. They wanted to offer that as an expressive outlet. The credibility has just been growing and the applications are unlimited.
Tim had a session at the abbey a couple of weeks ago where the St. JohnEvangelist homeless shelter in Green Bay, in the winter they have eighty people staying there every night. He had a session as part of a retreat. They had 01:35:00twelve men come there for an overnight retreat at the abbey and then another group of eight women and he had sessions for each group where they drew and the staff that came with them who knew them and understood some of their background, they drew. So it opened the door to anyone who's stuck -- has an obstacle in their way, an image, an experience that's got them stuck, they can't see beyond it, they don't feel they have any worth or there's no use trying. "Everything I've done, failed. I'm a reject in society." Whatever they're carrying, "I'm an alcoholic, homeless--I'm the lowest of the low." Art gives a person the power to share a story and to externalize something that's been weighing heavily on them with no outlet. No solution. "No matter how I my stinking thinking goes, it always comes down to the same bad ending."
The applications are unlimited as far as how anyone can use that right brain01:36:00resource to identify what's been hogtieing you in the race of life and give you a chance to untie the knot and draw how that would look so you have the power to take that shackle off your ankles and start making headway in a direction you can determine. I'm just really an advocate for expressive. Whether it's drawing, journaling, poetry, any form of creative art I think can give a person access to that--you and I have that ability to imagine a solution, look at a problem, figure out what it'll take to fix it, use our creativity. That's all right brain and a lot of people aren't--don't--they avoid right brain after trauma I've found. This is just my two bit social work theory, I think when trauma hits 01:37:00somebody and lodges some negative symbols and the image of a story of what happened in that brain and people spend a lot of time looking away from that and running away from that because it's so scary. I think that they tend not to use the right brain much because the veterans I've met they tend to use more left brain assets because that's where they feel they wanna control things--they don't want surprises. They don't want to stick their neck up because it's too dangerous--keep your head down. Avoid people and don't go to places where you can't take charge. That's all left brain. That's all logic, black and white, linear thinking--math, science, everything that's real hard and fast. That becomes the softest place in the brain. That imagination, that unknown, "See what happens. Give it a try." That whole area--aren't gonna go there.
People lose that access that bridge between the left and right brain because we01:38:00need them both. When we're born, we teach children to be able to imagine, imaginary friends and playing with different toys to learn how to create things, that's all learning the right brain and then you put in 'em school and you start teaching them math and stuff, that'll strengthen the left brain but kids need them both. Trauma tends to sever the bridge because that right brain becomes more danger than help. We need it to solve problems, to figure out, to think outside the box. We get trapped in that box. That's what I see expressive art has been able to do and that's why the last few years working with veterans and seeing what they can do given the tools, that's been really rewarding because some of the guys I've counseled, I've helped them over the years with conventional counseling to recognize the effects of trauma, see how its effected 01:39:00them as a normal response to an abnormal event. "You're not crazy, you just responded to an abnormal event that was outside the exposure, the experience area in your own way. Now we're looking, taking a look at--does that look healthy or are there some other options, other tools that you might try?" People get that. It's a relief to know that they can develop other tools and other choices in how they respond to the same kind of symptoms. And if they can start talking about it out loud with their spouses or their family, then they can educate the rest of the people they care about rather than doing it alone.
We've made a lot of progress in being able to examine what went on, how's iteffecting and what are the ways you can deal with it and treat yourself better. If you're willing to educate your family now you've got a team approach. That's been very rewarding for me. I really like what leap frogging I see once someone can put it out and draw the symbols that are threatening up here. Also, we grew 01:40:00up with positive symbols that we learn in our experiences. For me, my faith is represented by the necklace I wear. There's symbols that we put value on, that we rely on to help us get through things. So there's positive symbols in our brain but if the trauma keeps a person from looking in that closet 'cause the boogie man's in there then you don't pick up or look at, examine what are some of the positive symbols that I have in my history, in my life that could be brought to bear on this challenge.
I like the way that art opens that door, puts the flashlight in the corner andsays, "I'm going to take that little gremlin out of there and put it on the 01:41:00table. I'm gonna show you what color it is and where I think it came into my life." Once they start doing that they can go back to the closet with the flashlight and then they can find perhaps some other symbols that are--that represent some strengths. Some courage, some imagination, some other ways--that's what I like. I like that power to open that door and shine that light in there and start to look at everything in there. The scary stuff and the powerfully healthy stuff and I think that's what I see. When a couple is coming to our--you just see one playing off of the other. Wow, twelve-thirty. That's kinda where I'm at today.
BROOKS: Great. Well I know you need to be heading out. I do think I might have afew more questions for you but I think we can try to cover them at a different 01:42:00time. You gave me a lot today. I really appreciate that.
KAMPS: Okay, okay. I don't know if you anybody else lined up in the Green Bay area?
BROOKS: Not right now.
KAMPS: You don't have to hurry on this and if you have some questions I'd surebe happy to sit down with you again.
BROOKS: Yeah I think it would be great to-- not only is it interesting to talkto you about your firsthand experience but as a resource for how people are addressing PTSD today. How we as a museum can kind of fit ourselves into the equation. I think it would be mutually beneficial.
KAMPS: Yeah that would be good. We're reading-- Darryl Johnson who you met andTim and I and Darryl's wife a few people have been reading this book called What Doesn't Kill Us by Stephen Joseph and that's been very refreshing as he relates 01:43:00some of the research he's been doing when he asks other kinds of questions besides "what are the symptoms?". He's asking other questions and getting some amazing answers from people who can account for some growth. That's a whole new concept when it comes to PTSD. Post traumatic growth. I really like the way it's going and I think it would get very hopeful concept to bring into the picture of treatment because people need to know that you may be better at stuff than others who haven't gone through what you did. That needs to be developed. I think the exhibits at the museum this year will perhaps reinforce how some of that is emerging with some of the drawings--when a person's been at it for a while.
BROOKS: Great, great. Well thank you again.
KAMPS: You're welcome.
[End of Session 1]