Purple Star Veterans & Families http://psvf.org Strengthening The Homecoming Safety Net for Veterans & Their Families Sun, 21 May 2017 14:06:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Meet Our Peer Advisors: Dennis Tackett http://psvf.org/meet-our-peer-advisors-dennis-tackett/ Sat, 27 Feb 2016 18:15:31 +0000 http://psvf.org/?p=3497 Peer Advisors assist active duty Service Members, Veterans, and family members in assessing where they are, finding a new direction and creating a plan for the future by clarifying strengths and interests while identifying opportunities for self-improvement. Our goal is to help clarify of mission, identity, meaning and purpose. Peer Advisors also assist in finding relevant resources and programs. We strive to never let a client down.

Purple Star Veterans and Families is proud to introduce….

Dennis TackettDennis Tackett

Veteran Peer Advisor

Former Military Police/Military Working Dog Handler, OEF Combat Veteran & 2 time OIF Combat Veteran

I was on active duty for almost 9 years, and had three (year long) deployments. I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2006 and deployed two more times after that diagnosis. I was suffering from the worst of the symptoms in 2011 when I was charged with a felony and tried to commit suicide a few months after. The journey that followed has been a difficult one, but to have come from the level of absolute despair to where I am now in life is worth the work. I am here to help other families avoid going through the same obstacles that mine has experienced.


Meet our Peer Advisors: William Rodriguez http://psvf.org/meet-our-peer-advisors-william-rodriguez/ Sun, 21 Feb 2016 01:25:25 +0000 http://psvf.org/?p=3488 One of the cornerstones and what makes Purple Star unique and effective is our Peer Advisor program.

PSVF Peer Advisors are former military service men and women who act as an advocate for fellow Veterans and their family members who are struggling with the challenges of homecoming and transition from military to civilian life. Our Peer Advisors are the first line of contact to identify the needs of each Veteran and family member, and serve a critical role of helping connect them with tools, services and resources to help solve their presenting problems and the ongoing challenges experienced during transition from military service.

We have a growing group of extremely passionate, talented, and dedicated Peer Advisors who have “been there”, come out on the other side, and are now in the trenches every day working with the struggling Veterans and family members we serve to help them get through as well.

We’d love to introduce you to one of our finest…

William-RodriguezWilliam Rodriguez

MSW, LCSW, Veteran Peer Advisor

Former U.S. Army Scout RECON, Three Tour OIF, OEF Combat Veteran

My lifelong experience growing up in an active-duty military family, and then serving on active duty as noncommissioned officer with a young family of my own, gives me a unique perspective on the needs of military families. These needs and struggles are compounded with the introduction of rapid deployment cycles. My role as a program evaluator and researcher plays a vital role in further qualifying the thought leaders and healing modalities Purple Star Veterans and Families endorses and supports.


Who is Purple Star and How Are We Different? http://psvf.org/who-is-purple-star-and-how-are-we-different/ http://psvf.org/who-is-purple-star-and-how-are-we-different/#comments Wed, 17 Feb 2016 21:55:36 +0000 http://psvf.org/?p=3429 In today’s Military and Veteran non-profit climate, it is important to me that you have a clear understanding of who and what Purple Star Veterans and Families is.

Veterans’ non-profit scams abound; not only hurting those who truly need assistance the most but also damaging the ability of reputable non-profits to build trust and understanding in order to achieve their missions. Purple Star’s mission is two-fold:

  1. Offering preventative strengths-based programming to support successful transition from military service to civilian life for active duty Service Members, Veterans, and their families, and
  2. Honoring and remembering fallen active duty Service Members and Veterans who have died by suicide and other means (such as vehicular accidents while under duress, adrenaline-seeking behavior, drugs and alcohol) as a result of emotional or physical trauma related to military service. 

Pics of Danny 11-2014Purple Star Veterans and Families (PSVF) is a California-registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization (EIN 20-2888521) dedicated to ‘Honoring the Fallen and Supporting Transition after U.S. military service.  Purple Star was founded in 2004 as the “Veterans and Families Foundation” by Danny Facto, a Purple Heart Recipient/OEF Army Combat Veteran and his father, John Henry Parker, a former peacetime Marine. In 2009 Danny was killed in a high speed “adrenaline-seeking” motorcycle accident while suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. Shortly after Danny’s death, Purple Star was created as a project of the Veterans and Families Foundation. In 2015, our organization and program offerings were completely overhauled and the name “Veterans and Families Foundation” was formally changed to “Purple Star Veterans and Families”.

Purple Star’s Board and Staff are comprised of Veterans from different war and peacetime eras, Active Duty and Veteran family members, and several of us have lost loved ones to the painful scourge that is suicide. Our experiences are real, we are honest and caring people (and professionals), and we are passionate about our mission to serve and our drive to find ways to reduce the number of Service Member and Veteran suicides. We believe in planning and research, the use and proliferation of our personal development tools, and working with other reputable organizations. We know that no one organization can make as great of an impact alone. Those of us involved in this fight need each other, and to work together to have our voices heard! We must demand strategies along the “continuum of transition”; both into and out of the military back into civilian life that make a tangible impact on the well-being of those undertaking the journey.

Purple-Star-Flag-CampaignWhy Is Purple Star Important?

There is currently no existing Congressionally chartered civilian sector “star” designation to honor the families of those lost to suicide (and other means such as drug and alcohol abuse or accidents caused by adrenaline-seeking behaviors) as a result of trauma caused by military service, or any chartered organization for Veterans and their immediate and extended family members who are currently navigating the trials of homecoming akin to Blue Star Mothers of America (established in 1942) and the American Gold Star Mothers (established in 1917).


We are currently gathering support for bi-partisan draft legislation that will establish a Congressionally mandated ‘Purple Star Pin’ for those lost to suicide.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. It is my sincerest hope that some of the questions you may still have can be answered in the primer I’ve put together for you below. If not, please feel free to contact me.

In sincerest thanks,

Teresa “Tess” Banko

Executive Director


PSVF: A Primer


PSVF’s Websites

We have different web destinations for our different target audiences: www.psvf.org (for Friends and Families of the Fallen and supporters), www.purplestarveterans.org (for Active Duty and Veteran clients), and in late 2016 we will offer a website with information and resources specifically tailored to families.


Our Model

Because we serve clients nationally and to cut down on operating costs and overhead, we allow our staff to “work in place” and attend mandatory weekly progress meetings. Our Board meets bi-annually. Our physical Los Angeles mailing address that is listed is to a postal service that receives and electronically transmits mail to all responsible parties, but Purple Star was originally born as a brick and mortar “chapter model” organization in Colorado.


PSVF’s Program Offerings

  • Families and Friends of the Fallen Program: Specifically for those who have suffered the pain of loss. Our virtual Memorial Wall serves as a place where families and friends alike can come together to share photos, stories and memories of their loved ones. National Registry of the Fallen where the next of kin of active duty Service Members and Veterans who have died from suicide or other means (such as vehicular accidents, adrenaline-seeking behavior, drugs and alcohol) as a result of emotional and physical trauma related to military service can register as part of an effort to unite families in being heard and counted.
  • Purple Star Flags Program: Offers free flag packets to active duty Service Members and Veterans in transition (our purple flag packets), as well as to Friends and Families of the Fallen (our gold flag packets). To sign up for a free flag visit www.psvf.org.
  • Peer Advisor Program: Our trained Peer Advisors (who are Veterans) answer requests submitted via the purplestarveterans.org web portal and via phone in order to offer one-on-one, personalized short-term assistance (4-6 one hour sessions) to Veterans and their families. In the future, we hope to be able to offer stipends for long-term mental health counseling and emergency financial assistance. Our Peer Advisors utilize a positive, personal development approach as supported by our own Transition Map and Action Plan and Communication Survey. Their mission is to help clients re-establish their mission, identity, meaning, and purpose after military service and to connect them with relevant and vetted resources to ease transition to civilian life. 


In the Works:

  • Building a coalition of support for Purple Star Pin legislation. (If you would like to submit a letter of support please email Tess Banko at executivediector@psvf.org)
  • The completion of our Families Program and website
  • Getting the word out about our mission and re-structured programs
  • Fundraising drive to staff our re-structured programs and to cover operating expenses
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John Mason http://psvf.org/john-mason/ Tue, 08 Dec 2015 21:58:39 +0000 http://psvf.org/?p=3124 In Memory of John Mason

Former Vietnam Marine Combat Veteran, Husband, Father, and Friend.

How Can You Help?

Through our Peer Advisors, Transition Tools & Resources, and Programs for Veterans and their Families, Purple Star is strengthening the transition safety net for Veterans like John, and countless others who are struggling to redefine their sense of identity, mission, meaning & purpose. We are building the first-ever National Network of Veteran Mentoring Organizations, and we need your help to make it happen. Want to learn more about what we are currently working on and how you can help?

Veterans, PTSD and Substance Abuse http://psvf.org/veterans-ptsd-and-substance-abuse/ Thu, 21 May 2015 22:23:32 +0000 http://purplestarveterans.org/?p=2572 Memorial Day is a good time to assess the condition of our returning military veterans, a group which is fraught with alarmingly high rates of PTSD, addiction and suicide. The rate of suicide among veterans is alarmingly higher than is found in the civilian population, and substance misuse is often involved in these tragedies. An underlying issue is PTSD, which is significantly higher among veterans than in the general population. Dr. Tom Horvath and Len Van Nostrand highlight the connection between PTSD and addiction and the critical role of treatment in healing our veterans….Dr. Richard Juman

As the month of May brings Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, becomes a natural topic of discussion. Within this important conversation is the intricate relationship between PTSD and substance use.

Our greatest understandings of traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress often come from those who’ve experienced the horrors and devastation of war, which can last long after combat ends. For many veterans, the impacts of war remain as if it were yesterday. Heartbreakingly, their mind continues to be a battlefield of devastating, torturous memories and they are tasked with the challenge of coping with PTSD.

Casualties of War: The Somatic, Neurological and Psychological Systems

Traumatic stress impacts all of our systems, including the somatic, neurological and psychological systems. When we have painful thoughts and memories, we activate the various chemical and messenger systems of the body and experience distress, tension, anxiety and depression, resulting in ongoing deregulated emotions. Despite repeated efforts to avoid the painful memories and associated emotions, our minds and bodies remember. For reasons we may be only vaguely aware of, unresolved major trauma can result in seemingly unbearable emotions and physical sensations, negative and self-critical beliefs, interpersonal isolation and defensiveness, hypervigilance, and a deep sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

As if the assault on the somatic, neurological and psychological systems wasn’t enough, the deregulation of these systems can diminish the capacity for meaningful connection to others, eliminating a critical component of healthy coping. When left alone and consumed by traumatic stress, our coping can take many different forms, but engaging in addictive behavior is one of the most common.

Disturbing the Connection to Others

Trauma, especially war trauma, often has a substantial effect on our relationships. We are born with an innate need to attach to and connect with others. Our survival depends on the maintenance of these bonds. However, when our sense of connection and self-efficacy is ruptured, we no longer enjoy the ability to trust others or ourselves. The result is an inner world of numbness, terror and rage. With these bonds disturbed, our whole being is shocked and in an ongoing state of disequilibrium. Relationships lose their ability to provide us with a sense of safety and trust, and the need for relief from overwhelming negative emotions can become enormous.

Both situational (specific circumstances) and cumulative (ongoing and/or persistent) trauma can result in an inability to participate effectively in relationships. We can appear to be in a relationship, but the ability to connect and find meaningful attachment and security may not exist.

Everyone experiences some distress throughout the day, whether small, intense or catastrophic. When we confide in friends or family and trust others to listen to us, our distress is reduced. This form of emotional support keeps us regulated and able to handle a variety of stressors throughout the day (or week, month, year, or even lifetime). On a much larger scale, the same process can also be applied to the major distress caused by war. However, the traumatic experience of war can break down our trust in the emotional process, cause us to believe that we are no longer worthy of being listened to, or simply cause us to lose our ability to trust people. In such a state, we may search for another outlet for our emotional pain. Under such circumstances, drugs and alcohol (or even sex and gambling) have a powerful appeal. If the need for relief is strong, substances are typically very effective at providing that relief. Substance misuse becomes the solution to our universal need for connection. Perhaps alcohol, drugs, and destructive addictive behaviors can provide the most rapid and predictable relief from emotional pain.

Bonding With Substances and the Vicious Circle

Under these conditions, classic substance dependence can develop. Gradually, the substances replace our ability to cope with stress and tension. Rather than the development of resilience over time, we increasingly rely on the substance. Coping diminishes and substance use increases until the solution (substance use) has become the problem.

As inner capacities atrophy, and we abandon personal goals and relationships, our focus turns to more and more substance use. It becomes the primary, and ultimately, the only method to overcome numbness, terror, and rage. The new problems created by the “solution” add another layer of pain, isolation and immobility. We find ourselves in a vicious circle, which may not be escaped until a crisis occurs.

Treating Trauma and Substance Abuse

For someone with trauma, recovery is twofold: we not only need to start on a new path, but we must also work at overcoming the original issues. We must re-establish a basic trust in others and ourselves. Because trauma typically involves a substantial reduction in the capacity to experience, tolerate and articulate our inner experiences, significant psychotherapeutic work may be needed. No matter how painful, the journey to rediscovering your worth, restoring healthy relationships, and recovering from substance misuse and the effects of trauma is full of hope and certainly worth the effort.

The Practical Recovery and Full Spectrum Recovery teams express sincere appreciation for our veterans and service members. We recognize the immense internal battles that will be fought long after the external ones have ended. The trauma is real and the war wages on within many of them. Undeniably, we owe a deep gratitude for the expansive lives we are able to lead because of their sacrifices.

If you or someone you know suffers from trauma and substance abuse, please don’t be afraid to reach out – there is help.

Len Van Nostrand, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, is the co-founder and owner of Full Spectrum Recovery and Counseling. He is trained in a variety of modalities, including TRE (Trauma/Tension Release Exercises), EMDR, hypnotherapy and Motivational Interviewing, and he has maintained a therapy and intervention practice for over fifteen years. He also facilitates weekly SMART recovery groups. 

A. Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP, is the founder and president of Practical Recovery in San Diego, CA, a self-empowering addiction treatment system including sober living, outpatient services and two residential treatment facilities for alcohol and drug abuse. He is also the president of SMART Recovery, an international nonprofit offering free, self-empowering, science-based, mutual-help groups for addiction recovery. A past president of the Society of Addiction Psychology, he is the author of Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions. 


This article was originally posted on The Fix. Read the full article here.

What is needed and why are we relevant? http://psvf.org/what-is-needed-and-why-are-we-relevant/ Fri, 17 Apr 2015 18:08:48 +0000 http://purplestarveterans.org/?p=2402 After my son Danny’s second tour in Afghanistan and his separation from the Army with 10th Mountain Division, we very quickly came to the realization that he had been severely underprepared for his transition from military life. We invested a great deal of time, energy and frustration with the fact that a process or a program should have been provided during pre-separation that would have prepared him for what he would experience. We began to envision forming an organization to address this problem and to put what we had learned from our own experiences into action for others. It was 2004 and there were an estimated 3,500 Veteran related non-profit organizations across the nation. At the time this seemed like a very large number. Fast forward to 2015, there are now over 45,000.

We began by asking ourselves a question that has continued to guide me to this day, “What is needed and why are we relevant?”

What is Needed?

First, what is not needed. In my opinion, not another well intending Veteran services organization replicating what hundreds of similar groups are doing. Not another redundant small non-profit competing for donors and attention in a very confusing landscape of choices. A landscape of players and organization that has become so confusing and so vast it is often referred to as a “Sea of goodwill”.

With Veterans dying from suicide at a rate of 18-22 per day, we need to get ahead of this problem as fast as possible. Prevention and early intervention, before Veterans spiral out of control seems to make the most common sense.

Don’t compete, collaborate. What is needed are more organizations acting as traffic controllers, identifying needs and directing people in need to organizations and resources to help Veterans and families solve their presenting problems and future challenges. There are a great number of directory/clearing house web destinations and we intend to direct people to them but what is also needed is a real person engaging another person in the problem solving process.  This is the first area of opportunity we are directing our attention toward. We decided to title our traffic controllers “Veteran Peer Advisors” to hopefully minimize the perception that we are somehow competing with existing and well established Veteran “Peer Mentoring” programs. Our role is to identify a need and to connect the person to a solution. In many cases, our role will be to introduce a Veteran in need to a Veteran Peer Mentor who will assist them long-term. In other cases, it will be to help them find an experienced Veteran with another organization to help them write a resume, find a job, prepare for college or to file a claim or an appeal with the VA. It is a form of triage that is designed to open up a conversation between two people and to establish trust and confidence. With each person, we start from start by doing our best to answer three simple questions: Who are you?, Where are you? and Where do you want to go from here? We have tools and resources to help us answer these questions uniquely for each person that have proven to be invaluable.

This is our progress report for now. We are a work in progress with a small group of bright people who are fast learners with a big vision. We haven’t screwed anything up beyond repair and have many years of building credibility and confidence with stakeholders from every sector of the Veteran community. With our tools and strategy now in place, it is time to further organize a base of trained Peer Advisors for both Veterans and for families that will help us solve problems, save lives and keep families together.

We can “hope” things get better but “hope” is not a strategy (look for this title of a blog post coming soon).

We have an executable plan to bring people and resources together to get ahead of the problem.

This is what is needed and why we are relevant.



Welcome to Purple Star Veterans http://psvf.org/welcome-to-purple-star-veterans/ Thu, 09 Apr 2015 17:12:03 +0000 http://purplestarveterans.org/?p=2396 It is my pleasure to welcome you to our new Purple Star Veterans site…


Here, you will find personal development tools designed to help you along the path of transition, whether you are facing a return from a combat deployment or the conclusion of your military career and return to civilian life. These include the Transition Map and Action Plan that can assist you in discovering where you are, where you want to be, and how you can get there.

Currently, our Veteran Lifeline area is set up to allow you to create connections to those you trust the most as you embark upon your journey so that you can share information with your support network in safety and privacy. Veteran Lifelines encompass a great method to negotiate the ways in which you’d like to be helped, to keep those you care about and who care about you in the loop, and to be a place of support whenever you need it.

Additionally, we are hard at work at implementing several new program areas that will be available in the future; to include dedicated Peer Advisors to assist you with our tools and in finding meaningful resources, plus a robust private online community.

Also in development is our Purple Star Families site, which will host content such as resources to include those relevant to grief and loss, tools, and a blog section.

Finally, in the future we will have the capacity to offer stipends for personal development and wellness trainings as well as access to mental health consulting for those in need.

Thank you for visiting our site, it is an honor to serve you.


Tess Banko PhotoTess Banko
Executive Director
Purple Star Veterans and Families






Suicide Prevention Resources http://psvf.org/suicide-prevention-resources/ Sun, 05 Apr 2015 20:07:58 +0000 http://purplestarveterans.org/?p=2392 Prevention Resources

Vets Prevail– Build. Engage. Prevail.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline– Call them at 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

National Suicide Prevention Resource Center – Support, guidance, and resources

Veterans Crisis Line – call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or send a text message to 838255

VETCenter – Nationwide Network of Support Centers


National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder www.ncptsd.org and the National Military Families Association www.nmfa.org dedicated to active duty military families and many other national organizations now link and send thousands of visitors a month to the Veterans and Families Foundation website.

Wounded Warrior Project – An organization dedicated to the well being and adjustment of wounded warriors in America

Make the Connection – Shared Experiences and Support for Veterans

Video Resources

VA Suicide Prevention with Gary Sinise – Video
USMC Suicide Prevention with Gary Sinise – Video
Suicide Prevention PSA for Military Families – Video

Veteran Suicides Each Year Eclipses Total OEF/OIF U.S. Military Killed in Action Since 9/11 http://psvf.org/veteran-suicides-each-year-eclipses-total-oefoif-u-s-military-killed-in-action-since-911/ Sun, 05 Apr 2015 19:51:18 +0000 http://purplestarveterans.org/?p=2385 Wake Up, America

We are about to cross a catastrophic milestone in our nation’s history…

and nobody knows it.

The latest U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) report from the DEFENSE CASUALTY ANALYSIS SYSTEM puts the number of U.S. military killed in action (KIA) while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at 6,567 as of December 14, 2012.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans are not correlating the lives lost in The War On Terror with the catastrophic loss of life occurring when warriors come home. In the United States, every 80 minutes a U.S. Military Veteran who actually made it home alive from Afghanistan and Iraq dies from suicide. That’s 18 per day, 6,570 per year.

Skeptical of this statistic? Here’s a Policy Brief titled: Losing the Battle, The Challenge of Military Suicide from the  Center for a New American Security.

If this trend continues there will be more Post 911 Veteran Suicides on the near horizon than are names on the Vietnam Wall (58,261), do the math.

Herein lies a big “Catch 22” that is a part of the homecoming dilemma Veterans and their families are faced with.


The Preparedness and Decompression Dilemma


When service members leave the military and become veterans they are no longer employees under the care of the Department of Defense. Upon separation from military service, all health care and mental health services transfer from the DOD to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). DOD out-processing ends and the VA in-processing begins.

Unfortunately, by the time Veterans who need help the most arrive home, for many, an opportunity to most effectively help them has already passed. And no one is speaking up about it with a strong enough call to action… Until now.

Because Veterans are trained to be self-reliant and to “complete the mission” at all cost, it is unacceptable for many who are “at risk” to ask for help or to receive assistance when offered. Historically, this has been a major barrier to receiving care and continues to be the case with present day Veterans.

Despite the best efforts of the military, the Veterans Administration and other providers, it is not enough (by themselves) to prevent thousands of veterans and their families from falling through the cracks of our society. To illustrate this point, you need only to pick up any newspaper, watch any news channel, or use any search engine to find an alarming volume of tragic statistics indicating our returning veterans and their families are in trouble.

Common sense is telling us that veterans who are reluctant to seek help can fall into a higher “at risk” group, especially if they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) from their wartime experiences. To compound the problem, self-medicating their symptoms with alcohol and drugs can lead to addictions, domestic violence, divorce, homelessness, incarceration and suicide.

There are many “Resiliency” and “Soldier Fitness” models being explored in different branches of the military but what is needed is a world class, “Best Practices” model with a long term commitment to trauma and brain research. A model that gets better and better with each passing year. To learn more about where brain research is heading for diagnosing the existence and severity of Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury, start following the former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Retired General Peter Chiarelli who is now the CEO of One Mind for Brain Research.

Battlefield Medicine would be a great example to model. Right now, if a person gets shot or blown up on the battlefield there is roughly a 90% chance they will make it home alive no matter how serious their injuries, due to the advancements in battlefield medicine.

What we need is this same level of commitment and research to discover how to help warriors decompress from the high operational tempo of war. A process that helps them recover from their traumatic injuries and experiences with more resilience. And as important as physical injuries, a program that helps them through the realities of grief, loss, depression, sleeplessness and the moment to moment triggers of Post Traumatic Stress. To learn more about this pick up a copy of “Once a Warrior Always a Warrior” by Dr. Charles Hoge.

Military training does a thorough job of conforming and compressing the hearts and minds of young adults entering the armed forces. One would think that given our nation’s history of war and of bringing warriors home, that a proven and equally effective decompression or de-commissioning process would exist for assimilating Veterans back into family, education, employment and civilian life. A process that preserves the leadership qualities and positive attributes of the military experience but also helps each individual to heal the invisible wounds of war. Unfortunately, this is not the case system wide.

What is needed is a national voice of not only Veterans but from their immediate and extended family members to make a public declaration that we are failing as the default homecoming safety net. Less than 1 ½ of 1% of the American public even serve in the military. We are not qualified to understand how to help our Veterans when they need it the most.

We need help.

If the greatest barrier to care for Veterans to receive the help they need is their own aversion or inability to ask for help, our focus should be single-mindedly on finding ways to remove this barrier.

Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer:

What if the easiest solution was to help Veterans before they become Veterans?

What if soon-to-be veterans didn’t have to raise their hand to ask for help? What if the solution was part of the separation process just like basic training is part of the on-boarding process?


Help Veterans, Before they Become Veterans

National Petition to The Office of the President


In an effort to get ahead of the problem, Purple Star Veterans and Families poses a solution to bring all of the stakeholders in homecoming to the table with a common goal: To save lives and to keep families together.

The problem with this strategy is that no one has ever done this before. But obviously, no one has figured out homecoming either.

If the existing programs for preparing soon-to-be Veterans for homecoming were succeeding, the epidemic of suicides would be declining, not at an all time high with no end in sight. At present all that our leaders can declare is “preventing Veteran suicide is our highest priority” but without a clear, actionable and unified strategy to include the civilian safety net, how can this be realistically accomplished?

Two main initiatives of the national petition:

  1. The immediate and long-term creation of comprehensive homecoming preparedness and decompression training for all separating military prior to and following homecoming with special care for Combat and Combat related job specialties.
  2. The creation of nationally standardized and readily available homecoming preparedness resources to better prepare families for welcoming their Veterans home.

To bring attention to these important solutions, if you have not already done so, please go to purplestarfamilies.org to read and sign the petition and please leave a comment about why you are signing.

Our Goal: 1 Million Signatures

To paraphrase Seth Godin, Author of “Tribes”:

“If our circumstances demand change, and change requires leadership, then our circumstances demand leadership”

Lets get homecoming right this time!

Danny Facto http://psvf.org/danny-facto/ Mon, 08 Dec 2014 21:25:39 +0000 http://psvf.org/?p=3104 Purple Star Veterans and Families was created in memory of

Danny Facto

Purple Heart Recipient and OEF Combat Veteran of Two Tours In Afghanistan with the Army 10th Mountain Division

1979 – 2009

Danny photo for PSVF site

Danny passed away in the late evening of Wednesday July 15th 2009 from injuries sustained in an excessive speed related motorcycle accident. His funeral service was held on Thursday July 23rd 2009 at 12:30pm at Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus and was Buried in Valley Cemetery, with Military Honors immediately following the service. Danny is survived by his wife, two children, mother and father

Many of the concepts and content on this website were co-created by Danny while he was transitioning home from his military service and while attending Syracuse University to obtain his Masters in Clinical Social Work.

In the fall of 2003 Sgt Danny Facto was stationed at Shkin Fire Base, a mud fenced Alamo also known as “The Evilest Place” in a Time Magazine article. Shkin is in the Afghan border region approximately three miles from Pakistan.  Sgt. Facto was interviewed on a special segment of Peter Jennings’ “World News Tonight“ when General Abizaid the commander of troops in Afghanistan visited the forward fire base for a first hand assessment of the battlefield.

In early 2004 CNN was preparing a news segment with Paula Zann and Dr. Sanjay Gupta featuring Dr. Charles Hoge’s groundbreaking research on the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with returning military from Afghanistan. Fortunately, through a personal introduction to the CNN producer, Chris Cajilian by Dr. Jonathan Shay, author and documentarian of “Achilles in Vietnam“and “Odysseus In America“, Danny was selected for the interview to show a recently returning Combat Veteran seeking help for PTSD within the military health care system.

The following Video has both the Peter Jennings Interview mentioned above as well as the Paula Zann/Dr. Sanjay Gupta news segments.


The Creation of Purple Star

Unfortunately, Danny did not survive his full transition to civilian life due to a fatal high speed related motorcycle accident on July 15, 2009. On the first anniversary of Danny’s passing, his father was talking with a Blue Star Mother, Melanie Reagan, who suggested that he would now be a Gold Star Father. Gold Star Families have this designation because they have lost a family member who was actively serving in the military. After further conversation a question was posed “if there is an organization to honor the families of active duty service members, (Blue Star) and an organization to honor the families of the fallen during military service (Gold Star), why is there not similar “Star” organization to honor Veterans and their families who are going through homecoming and transition? As important, a star organization to honor and support the families of Veterans who are not surviving homecoming?”

From this conversation it was determined that in Danny’s memory the name would be changed from Veteransandfamilies.org to Purple Star Veterans (purplestarveterans.org). A second website is under development for the families of Veterans in transition and for the families who are not surviving transition from accidents, drugs, alcohol and suicide.

The Veterans Transition Map and Action Plan

The Transition Map and Action Plan concept and design were originally developed from a series of late night and early morning conversations between Danny and his father shortly after his return home from his second tour in Afghanistan. On many nights, Danny was unable to sleep and would put his wife and children to bed and lock up his house so that he could guard their home from perpetrators from the vantage point of a ditch on the edge of their property. On many nights, Danny would call his father and they would talk until he could go back inside to sleep.

The idea of a self-help map to orient Veterans into the important areas of life began to take form during these conversation and a vision of training large networks of Veteran peer mentors to deliver this model began to materialize. Together, they began a deeper exploration into many areas of personal, professional, transformational and spiritual development and these foundational conversations became part of the inspiration for Danny to focus his efforts on obtaining his Masters in Clinical Social Work (MCSW) from Syracuse University. Upon graduation, Danny’s vision was to work directly with Veterans both inside and outside of the VA. From 2004 – 2009, the ideas, content, processes and exercises he and his father researched were formulated and integrated into what is now The Veterans Transition Map and Action Plan, available for download under the “Tools” link and on most of the side-bars of this website.

Unfortunately, Danny’s passing would prevent him from realizing his vision personally but his work and efforts are foundational to the guiding mission of Purple Star. On the day of Danny’s passing he had accepted the honor of being Syracuse University’s Veterans Liaison. His role would have been to assist new Veterans as they acclimated to life on and off campus. This would have been his next step toward his career goal of being an advocate and counselor for Veterans. His difficulties in adjusting to college life after service would have served many Veterans coming into the Syracuse campus.

As a final note to our history. Danny’s passing from a high-speed motorcycle accident four years after leaving the military was ultimately deemed “Service Connected” due to the perseverance of a dedicated VA case worker who was mentoring Danny for a position within the Syracuse VA system.

National Petition to The President of The United States

In honor of Danny’s vision and passion for helping Veterans who suffer from their wartime experiences, a national petition was created to rally Veterans and families members together to change the way the military prepares service men and women for their transition into civilian life. In July of 2012 to memorialize Danny’s passing, the national petition was launched on Change.org.