Memorial Day 2016

Since the Civil War era, the United States has publicly honored its fallen soldiers in late spring. Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is now a federal holiday celebrated on the last Monday in May. It has always been a poignant occasion but has taken on additional resonance since 2001, when the attacks of September 11 precipitated nearly fifteen years of warfare overseas that continues to this day.

Vietnam Was MemorialMilitary service is challenging under any circumstances, but combat certainly increases the peril. Too many American men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice since the Battles of Lexington and Concord, in addition to the even greater numbers of soldiers that have been damaged physically or psychologically. And while it is entirely appropriate to honor those that have fallen, that is not enough—our debt to those brave men and women goes well beyond that. We must pick up the mantle by caring for their comrades who have survived, and the family and friends they have left behind. The field of psychology has a core role to play in that mission, and APA Books has tried to do its part.

In the autumn of 2010, APA Books released Deployment Psychology: Evidence-Based Strategies to Promote Mental Health in the Military. Edited by military psychologists Amy Adler, Paul Bliese, and Carl Castro, it focused on systematic, evidence-based attempts to prevent mental health problems among service members and enhance their well-being and resilience.

In 2011 APA Books published Wheels Down: Adjusting to Life after Deployment. Part of APA’s LifeTools series, it was written by Bret Moore PsyD, a psychologist who served two tours in Iraq, and Dr. Carrie Kennedy, currently the Department Head for Mental Health at the U.S. Naval Health Clinic, Bahrain.  Moore and Kennedy wrote this book for veterans returning to “normal life” after being discharged. In it, they share practical insights for dealing with this often difficult adjustment and the surprises it can bring, including family challenges and financial problems, as well as residual effects such as PTSD, and even suicidal tendencies. New England Psychologist called it “the best self-help book of its kind, easily a stand-alone guide filled with practical and reasoned tips.”

2011 also marked the release of Caring for Veterans With Deployment-Related Stress Disorders: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Beyond, co-edited by Josef I. Ruzek, PhD, Paula P. Schnurr, PhD, Jennifer J. Vasterling, PhD, and Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD. Its introduction made clear our obligation to veterans who had served so bravely: “We must all broaden our skills to help these men and women. As practitioners, program administrators, policy makers, or students, we are called to go beyond our current understanding of the mental health consequence of deployment to master emerging knowledge.”

In 2013, APA Books published Building Psychological Resilience in Military Personnel: Theory and Practice, edited by Robert R. Sinclair PhD and Thomas W. Britt PhD. This volume investigates the concept of resilience, its essential role in normal psychological development and its central importance to the military, and evaluates existing programs designed to help U.S. service members develop and maintain resilience.

Memorial Day Weekend 2016 beckons.  Enjoy the three-day weekend, the “unofficial start of summer,” especially as much of the east coast has been slogging through the wettest spring in recent memory. Go to the beach, have a cookout, attend a ballgame, watch the Indianapolis 500. But don’t lost sight of what the holiday is all about: remembering, honoring, and helping those who have helped us.