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Podcast popularity has been on the rise in recent years, with millions of listeners and nearly just as many options — and military podcasts are no exception. With so much content, it can feel daunting to search for the perfect series that suits your interests. That's why we took the time to find a few of the best military podcasts across a diverse range of perspectives and topics, from historical viewpoints and foreign policy to personal stories of bravery and courage.

AFBA's Top 5 Military Podcasts
Here are our picks for the top 5 military podcasts:

1. Mentors for Military
The Mentors for Military podcast offers thought-provoking discussions with real people and their stories. Led by a diverse group of 18 veterans, each episode of Mentors offers a captivating glimpse into the experiences of a wide range of servicemembers, from elite forces to Army Rangers.

For those intrigued by military life, this show offers an enlightening view through authentic conversations with veterans. Just sit back and tune in to the engaging conversations they have as if they're sitting with you in your living room.

2. Veteran's PATH
Veteran's PATH is an excellent resource for former military personnel who may be struggling with mental health. Its goal is to help ex-servicemembers find Peace, Acceptance, Transformation and Honor by using practices such as meditation and mindfulness. Not only does Veteran's PATH serve as a vital platform advocating for mental health in the military, but it's also working toward shattering the stigma around these types of issues.

Whether you've considered meditating and you just don't know where to start, or you're curious and want to give it a shot, Veteran's PATH offers a wealth of free content to help you better manage your mental health.

3. Women of the Military
Women of the Military provides a critical platform to elevate the voices of female active-duty servicemembers and veterans. Hosted by the creator of Airman to Mom, Amanda Huffman, each episode exclusively focuses on interviews with women who have served in the military, amplifying their unique stories, experiences and perspectives.

As an Air Force Officer, military spouse and veteran herself, Huffman brings her own background experience to these interesting discussions while covering an array of perspectives. And with a new episode each week, there's plenty of ground to cover and stories to explore.

4. Veterans Chronicles
Veterans Chronicles is a compelling podcast series documenting the remarkable stories of some of America's greatest heroes. Each hour-long episode captures the historical accounts and unique personal narratives of eyewitnesses through in-depth interviews.

Covering moments in military history like D-Day, Hanoi, Baghdad and Fallujah, these stories offer profound insight into the lived experience of our servicemembers, their bravery and the profound impact of their sacrifices. Simultaneously, Veterans Chronicles acts as a living record and tribute to the dedication and valor of our nation's heroes.

5. Military Mom Talk Radio
Finally, our last podcast pick takes a unique perspective on military life. Military Mom Talk Radio offers a supportive and empowering platform for women to share their ideas and concerns around the military lifestyle.

Episodes cover a wide range of topics, such as handling grief, finding a supportive community and more. Through engaging discussions and interviews, hosts Sandra Beck and Robin Boyd help women navigate the complexities of military life, including everything from health care to childcare and eldercare.

Whether you're an active-duty servicemember, a veteran or a civilian, these podcasts serve as important platforms to educate, advocate and gain a deeper understanding of each other and our history.

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When an enemy strike occurs, there is little time to prepare. The U.S. must remain prepared in case a strike happens to us or our allies. Many countries look to us for guidance and backup, which means it's our responsibility to keep a favorable posture when it comes to proper Armed Forces funding, training and advancement.

We'll explore how the U.S. is able to remain combat-ready.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Lying in Wait

The federal government's primary focus is to serve the people of America by protecting our safety and freedoms. There is an official policy highlighted for the Armed Forces called Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) for times when there isn't an active need for warfare, combat or threat of violence.

MOOTW is typically used in times of humanitarian aid, engineering, law enforcement, peacekeeping and disaster response. It's used to deter potential aggressors, protect U.S. interests and support the United Nations' (UN) objectives.

Armed Forces planners' prime objective during conflict is to resolve the situation and return to peaceful conditions. During peacetime, the nation can focus on basic objectives rather than defense and attack.

Training

Generally speaking, Armed Forces members who are not engaged in direct conflict spend their days training at either their home station or other locations around the world. Equipment maintenance and research is necessary during these "downtime" periods.

The Armed Forces must go through consistent times of upgrading including their facilities, drills, supplies, equipment and weapons. Success in warfare depends on preparation, so active duty servicemembers drill consistently, even after they understand their duties. This would include knowing where to be at certain times, what gear to grab and why they are there in the first place. There are times when there's no additional leadership during wartime, and soldiers should be ready.

Support

There are some instances where an Armed Forces regime is asked to support citizens in certain areas. This could include:

  • Cleaning up and repairing after natural disasters.
  • Assisting civil organizations like police and firefighters with heavy equipment.
  • Testing new vehicles, weapons and options.
  • Observing to prevent suspicious war activity.
  • Cleaning up old conflict areas for weapons and debris.
  • Acting as standby guard for internal fights, riots or revolts.
  • Transporting helpful goods for civilians, such as food and supplies, after times of crisis.
  • Blocking actions to prevent crises.

Family

When soldiers aren't actively on base and training, they're experiencing life just like everyone else. They're taking time to build their family, make memories and achieve personal goals one day at a time.

Being on base and in active deployment can take a lot of time and energy away from the other aspects of life. It's important to recover from what happened while on duty, while being present for the life still happening at home.

All in all, members of the Armed Forces live full lives during their career, and the aspects of their duties change along the way.

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September — it's the start of fall, the beginning of football season … and also a great time to celebrate the U.S. Air Force. Why? Well, because this branch of the military marks its 76th anniversary this year on September 18. In honor of this date, here are 10 facts about the Air Force and the daring men and women who keep the skies secure.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

1. The Air Force Used to Be Part of the Army

The Air Force celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022 — but that doesn't commemorate the day the first American aviators took to the sky. Rather, on that day in September 1947, the Air Force and Air Force Command were spun off from the Army, which had been in charge of airborne operations through both World Wars.

2. There Are 17 Air Force Bands

The Air Force Band is one of the premier military ensembles — but "one" is the wrong term. There are two main groups, joined by nine active duty bands, five in the National Guard and one deployed in Southwest Asia. These musicians are heard by six million people a year.

3. Air Force Planes Help Fight Wildfires

When wildfires recently struck California, the Air Force got the call to help with the firefighting effort. Specialized C-130 planes flew 156 missions to battle the blazes in just a single month.

4. NORAD Coordinates Air Defense — And Tracks Santa

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is an organization combining U.S. and Canadian air and space defense units. Among other things, it annually runs a popular site that lets kids bring up Saint Nick on the radar as he circles the globe.

5. Women Make Up Over One-Fifth of Air Force Members

The latest data shows that 21.4% of Air Force personnel are women. The service has trained female pilots since 1976, navigators since 1977 and fighter pilots since 1993. Among officers, this figure rises to 23.3% of personnel.

6. The Air Force Academy is the No. 2 Source of Astronauts

Can Air Force training get people ready to go to space? Historically, the answer has been yes. The Air Force Academy has produced 39 astronauts, making it second only to the Naval Academy.

7. "Sully" Had Air Force Training

Commercial Airline Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger became famous for successfully landing his damaged jet on the Hudson River and saving over 150 passengers' lives. What you may not know is that he's an Air Force Academy graduate from the class of 1973.

8. 17 Air Force Football Players Have Gone Pro

The Air Force Academy's football team, the Falcons, have sent 17 players into the pro ranks, with the most recent being Detroit Lions tight end Garrett Griffin.

9. The Air Force Has a Grateful Dead Connection

Psychedelic rock and the U.S. military don't seem like obvious bedfellows, but in addition to astronauts, aviators and football players, the Air Force produced a member of the Grateful Dead. Keyboardist Tom Constanten played with the Dead from 1968-1970 directly after a stint in the Air Force.

10. The Air Force Museum Has Over 350 Vehicles and Missiles

The Air Force maintains a comprehensive museum on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The facility is the oldest military aviation museum in the world, and also the biggest, spanning 19 acres. All that space is necessary to hold the hundreds of pieces of decommissioned hardware on display.

Now you have 10 facts to share about the Air Force as the branch celebrates its 76th year this September. From early flying aces to astronauts exploring the cosmos, Air Force personnel have worn many hats over the years, and their mission is still evolving today.

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There are few days in U.S. history more consequential or somber than September 11, 2001. Every year since the deadly attacks that took nearly 3,000 lives, Americans have paused on September 11 to remember those who died, and to dedicate themselves to serving their communities.

In December 2001, Congress designated September 11 as Patriot Day, and in 2009, as part of the Serve America Act, the day also became a National Day of Service and Remembrance. By attending a memorial service, sharing your personal memories and experiences or by giving back to your local community this Patriot Day, you can ensure that the indefatigable spirit of the victims lives on.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

What Happens Every Patriot Day?

In keeping with its solemn tone, Patriot Day is a time of contemplation and service. In the official White House announcement proclaiming last year's Patriot Day, President Joe Biden described some of the ways the government would be commemorating the anniversary.

All flags flown by government branches, agencies and departments fly at half-staff on September 11. A moment of  silence is observed at 8:46 a.m. eastern time, acknowledging the time when the first World Trade Center tower was struck.

There is also an annual observance ceremony carried out by the National Park Service at the Flight 93 National Memorial. This quiet location in southern Pennsylvania is the place where that flight crashed on September 11 when heroic passengers and crew prevented it from becoming part of the attacks.

The public service organization AmeriCorps also designates September 11 as one of its two annual National Days of Service, alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The group encourages individuals to pledge to serve their neighbors and offers web resources that connect people with opportunities to help out near them.

Beyond these nationwide and local commemorations, each person can go into their community and perform acts of service on their own to ensure they are showing a resolute, civic-minded spirit on this tragic anniversary. This is an opportunity to put good into the world as part of mourning and remembrance.

What Are Some Ways to Observe Patriot Day?

At first, it can be difficult to know how to mark a somber day like September 11. However, there are numerous ways to remember the tragedy and honor the sacrifices of those who died that day through giving back to your community.

Perhaps the most fundamental part of observing the National Day of Service and Remembrance is simply showing love and kindness to the people in your life, friends, family and strangers alike. This attitude is a good foundation for acts of service, and a way to show that you honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives.

In a more concrete sense, you can also take part in volunteer projects. The National Park Service recommends getting out to serve, and runs its own events, some in conjunction with groups such as The Mission Continues, a nonprofit community impact group that helps veterans acclimate to lives at home following after they've served.

You can also share memories and reminiscences to ensure the sacrifices of those who perished on September 11, 2001, as well as the first responders who gave so much of themselves to provide assistance on that day, lives on. One of the legacies of September 11 is that everyday people can find heroism within themselves, and honoring that is part of Patriot Day.

We at AFBA hope you'll join us in honoring those who gave their lives September 11, 2001, and those who committed brave acts of service that day, on Patriot Day 2023 and beyond.

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Whether it's a Military ball or another formal event for the Armed Forces, these scenarios can add up after a while. That's why Operation Deploy Your Dress (ODYD) was developed. It's a chance for women of the Armed Forces to look their best at any formal affair, without the costs that come with it.

We'll explore more about this organization and how you can get involved.

Meet: Yvonne Coombes

Yvonne started as a Navy Family Readiness Group Leader from 2005 to 2007. This means that she represented a group of people who supported other spouses of those in the Armed Forces during deployment. This role helps directly connect commanders with their community, even during deployment.

From there, Yvonne continued to facilitate communication, community and commonplace between those on deployment and their family and friends. From helping with CrossCountry Mortgage to what is now the ODYD, Yvonne is dedicated to helping Armed Forces families get the support they need to lead the lives they want.

She truly believes that everyone who serves should feel the "tradition and camaraderie that takes place at military balls and formal functions."

Yvonne has been a Military wife for 20 years, and has helped hundreds of families connect and feel taken care of around the world.

What is ODYD?

Military balls are a significant part of the culture in this sector. Yvonne is the cofounder of ODYD, and began this journey in 2015 when she and her friends did a dress swap among the other women within their unit and their spouses. The intention was — and remains — to offset the cost of attending formal Military affairs.

They decided to expand this idea on a national and international level. Yvonne and her friends opened up these swaps to other units, which helped them gain more media attention. In the past 8 years, they have opened 13 stores around the country, with one in Germany that "deploys" dresses to any Military ID holders.

Their line of dresses includes a full bridal department where brides-to-be can pick from 27 brand-new wedding gown styles, accessories and looks. The entire process is done online through video conferencing so that any bride can work with the ODYD Bridal team so they're matched with the perfect dress.

Their newest installation occurred in 2022, with a partnership with David's Bridal. David's Bridal launched the Frontline Fierce Corporate Philanthropy Initiative to support frontline workers with formal dresses.

Fittings and Volunteers

The organization is run entirely by volunteers, donations and pure partnerships. They found support through the Fort Bliss Garrison Command and the Spouses' Club, which helped them expand their offerings and locations.

A Military cardholder can come by any one of the shops or contact the team online to pick up one dress and one accessory a year.

Being part of the Armed Forces or a spouse of someone serving isn't easy, but organizations like ODYD and their partners work hard to support in any way they can. You can make a donation or become a volunteer online by contacting them today.

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Is life insurance the most overlooked, misunderstood and underrated kind of insurance? It may just be, specifically because it's so hard to envision needing this kind of coverage. It's uncomfortable to consider needing life insurance, and if you're young and in great health, it can seem like such a remote prospect, you might simply ignore it.

But that kind of attitude, while understandable, leaves people without the coverage they need. Only 53% of men in the U.S. have life coverage, and even fewer women — just 46%. This is why the insurance sector has come together to declare September Life Insurance Awareness Month. It's the time of year to take some of the fear and mystery out of life insurance and see it for what it is: An important and affordable way to look out for your loved ones.

What Is Life Insurance and Why Do You Need It?

Simply put, a life insurance policy exists to ensure that if the holder passes away, their nearest and dearest will receive financial support. It's a way to help families get by in extremely hard circumstances — and considering just how vital this can be, the costs are low.

In some cases, it's clear why and how that money matters. If you're married, it will help your spouse. If you have children, it can go to their care. But what if you're single and childless? Life insurance still matters, and it was cases like this that Life Insurance Awareness Month was founded to address.

There are so many instances when extra funds could help the people and things you care about most. If you own your own company or have anyone financially dependent on you in any way, money may matter a great deal. You provide for the individuals in your life and look after them every day. It can be comforting to know you could do the same in your absence.

Costs simply add up. Family members will have to go grocery shopping every week. Any kind of business will need money to keep the doors open and the lights on. Life insurance helps these things keep going — it's a way to show you're watching out for all the pieces of your life, and it's typically not hard or overly expensive to get a policy.

How Do You Get Life Insurance — and Pick the Best Plan?

How much coverage do you need to provide for your loved ones? That depends, but you can narrow it down. For example, Life Happens, the same group responsible for Life Insurance Awareness Month, offers a calculator. Plug your information into this system and you'll figure out the best policy amount for your needs. Then it's time to choose a provider.

Finding a life insurance policy doesn't have to be complicated, but you should take the decision seriously. This might mean working with an insurance agent or broker. That could mean choosing an independent professional to compare companies' offerings or working directly with a provider's agent.

Every provider offers a slightly different selection of products, along with a unique experience for policyholders, and a broker could help you sort through the offerings. Policies may also be available through employers, but there are some complexities that come with certain professions.

This is a good time for a history lesson. In 1947, U.S. service members weren't able to find coverage that would pay a death benefit if they lost their lives in combat. This is the reason why AFBA was founded — to provide peace of mind to the people who were serving their country. That's what we're still doing today, offering benefits to active duty military members, veterans and first responders.

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George Washington is quoted as saying, “We need chaplains” while addressing the Continental Congress before the service was formally established on July 29th, 1775. That means U.S. Army chaplains have been around since before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

During the Revolutionary War, they acted as spiritual leaders to help inspire and motivate soldiers. Little has changed since then. The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps (DACH) still serves a critical role in the daily functions of the Army by providing religious and moral support.

Every year since its birthday, the anniversary of the DACH is celebrated. This July 29th, you can use the opportunity to acknowledge the exemplary work of the DACH in your own way.

Here, we’ll discuss the DACH”s mission and how you can potentially become a chaplain.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

What does the DACH do?

The primary purpose behind the DACH is to offer support to the U.S. Army. This is usually religious support for a wide range of faiths, but they also help those who do not subscribe to any particular religion. This can include counseling, church services or other moral support. They also:

  • Serve in correctional or medical facilities or combat hospitals.
  • Offer family or marriage counseling.
  • Can act as instructors in officer service schools.

Some chaplains choose to further their training and education to prepare them for higher-level work. This could mean taking on staffing responsibilities, handling personnel-related tasks, or being involved in financial and logistical duties.

The DACH never stops working. In peacetime or war, whether soldiers are deployed or at home, chaplains are always there to offer their services. They understand that servicemembers have a near-infinite variety of backgrounds, and they aim to help all who could benefit.

Army chaplains aren’t restricted in what type of unit they serve. Intelligence, infantry, community ministries, hospitals — you will find chaplains in all these places.

Considered non-combat personnel, chaplains are supported by religious affairs specialists. In addition to organizing worship services and religious programs, these specialist troops have administrative duties and must act as an armed guard to ensure chaplains’ safety in combat situations.

How do you become an Army chaplain?

Chaplains serve a vital purpose in their units, meaning they must undergo extensive education and training programs to prepare themselves for such great responsibilities. They’re treated as Army officers and receive all the privileges other officers have.

Unlike some other Army positions, Army chaplains must have formal higher education: at least a bachelor’s degree. In some cases, graduating college seniors can enlist.

An endorsement from the applicant’s faith group is necessary, as is being enrolled full-time in an accredited graduate program that can qualify them for ordination.

Another challenge is the Chaplain Candidate Program (CCP). Ministry students may begin this training while they’re still in school.

Chaplains are exempt from Basic Combat Training (BCT) but still undergo physical tests to build strength and endurance. Chaplains must pass the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course (CHBOLC): In addition to requiring an adequate level of fitness, this course trains chaplains academically and spiritually.

Celebrate the anniversary of the Chaplain Corps this July 29

The DACH has had nearly 250 anniversary celebrations during its lifetime, and they’ve remained a core part of many Army units. On July 29th, show your appreciation for the DACH and its role in providing religious support to every soldier.

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When summer hits, the kids are off, your spouse’s PTO is saved up and the promise of a fun adventure is on the horizon. A trip to Washington DC could serve to be a rewarding experience for the whole family. Not only do you get to feel the heartbeat of America, but you can also dive into its deep history.

Before booking your trip, here’s what you need to know and some spots to put on your itinerary.

Planning your trip

DC has a lot to offer the common traveler. From the White House and Capitol to the presidential and military memorials. With so many attractions and potentially not a lot of time to see them, it’s important to narrow your choices and focus on a specific aspect of the city. Let’s get down to how to plan your trip.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

AFBA travel benefits

If you’re an AFBA member, you have certain travel benefits you should take advantage of before booking anything.

  • Car rental discounts: While DC is notoriously easy to walk through and shared rides are abundant, you may consider booking a car rental. This can be helpful if you want to stay somewhere outside the city and visit surrounding sites, want to make DC more accessible on your own time or have specific travel needs like wheelchair access.
  • Armed Forces vacation club: From hotels to exclusive discounts, any member of AFBA can benefit from starting their itinerary with this one-stop-shop website.
  • Wholesale hotel rates: Receive wholesale rates at over 600,000 hotels around the country — that’s 60% of any hotel on the list!

All of these advantages can put your trip on the right foot.

What to bring and not bring

Traveling comes with it a host of decisions, but here’s what to bring and leave behind on your trip.

Summer in DC is known for its humidity and average temperatures falling between the high 80s and low 90s. These two weather conditions combined make for summer storms as well. So, pack your raincoat, a good pair of walking shoes and your favorite breezy summer clothes to make this trip the best one yet.

DC is also a fairly large city, and it could get confusing if you’re not familiar with the area. Map out where each site and attraction is beforehand so you’re not wasting your time zig-zagging across town. If you book a tour, be sure to mark where the guide will meet you.

The top museums and locations to visit

Along with the main attractions like the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, here are the best places to see if you’re a military history enthusiast:

There is a lot to do and see when you visit Washington DC. Once you have your itinerary planned out, enjoy the music, food, art and culture of the area.

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There is still a strong stigma attached to mental health. Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time to help shatter that perception and inspire those who need it to seek out help.

One group that experiences increased rates of psychiatric illness are first responders and armed forces servicemembers, especially those who were in combat. Too many suffer in silence, though they don’t have to, as there are many programs available specifically for veterans and first responders alike. Operation Resiliency is one such example that aims to help servicemembers deal with mental health issues by encouraging interaction between soldiers who share bonds forged through combat in the military.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

Operation Resiliency

The underlying concept behind Operation Resiliency is that soldiers who form bonds in combat can help each other cope with trauma. Operation Resiliency hopes to assist both active duty and veteran service members better manage their mental health by bringing them together with no-cost retreats close to their homes. They also follow up with these individuals in an effort to keep connections strong among these soldiers.

Since the end of 2022, Operation Resiliency has served 468 service members. The project aims to hold six more retreats throughout 2023.

The origin of Operation Resiliency

The concept for Operation Resiliency came from Sarah Verardo, whose husband, Mike, was badly wounded in Afghanistan.

Verardo served in Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. This unit fought in the especially deadly Arghandab region in Afghanistan, where nearly half of the soldiers in the team were awarded Purple Hearts. When several of these infantrymen committed suicide, Sarah called retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Donald McAlister, first sergeant for Bravo Company in the Arghandab. They conceived of Operation Resiliency as part of their joint belief that they should do their part to prevent further tragedy.

McAlister led the first retreat for veterans in Bravo Company in North Carolina, where nearly 100 veterans of the company showed up. He believed he should lead them with full transparency of his own difficult reality to encourage others to do the same. “…Leading by example was being open and honest, and letting them know that mentally, physically, I’ll never be the man I was before…But at the end of the day, that’s OK…I told them, ‘You know, it’s OK for us all to not be OK, as long as we, as long as we acknowledge it. We can see the enemy, see what’s coming at us,” said McAllister, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Psychiatric illnesses are not a sign of weakness

One in five adults suffers from mental illness, as claimed by the National Institute of Mental Health. This statistic is the same for first responders and those who serve in the armed forces. No one — no matter how tough the person may be — is immune, and no one can “power through” psychiatric disorder through sheer force of will any more than they can a broken leg.

If you’re experiencing a crisis or if you feel you may hurt yourself or others, you can dial 988, which connects you to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Calling 911 is also an option.

Bravo Company is an example of the strongest among us recognizing their experiences and reaching out to their combat brothers for relief. Programs such as Operation Resiliency give these soldiers hope — which is what they require most in their time of need.

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While anyone can experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point during their lifetimes, it’s highly prevalent among veterans, first responders and active duty service members. Estimates of the rates of PTSD vary by era, but veterans who served during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have illness rates of about 11-20%, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

It’s not just combat that causes PTSD among veterans: 23% of women who use VA health care report having been sexually assaulted during their service, further increasing rates of PTSD among veterans.

One type of therapy, in particular, stands out as a unique and effective form of treatment for PTSD: music therapy.

What is PTSD, and why does it matter?

PTSD, once known as shell shock to describe similar symptoms among combat veterans, can be an extremely debilitating condition that can occur after a traumatic event. The disorder is a complicated psychiatric illness. Some symptoms of PTSD include, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA):

  • Intrusive thoughts or dreams about the traumatic experience that happen involuntarily and cause distress. This can include episodes of feeling like the traumatic incident is recurring and acting out the event (sometimes called “flashbacks”).
  • Intense psychological distress and usually avoidance of triggers that remind one of the episode.
  • An inability to remember details about the incident.
  • Increased arousal and reactivity.
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from other people.
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame.

Left untreated, these symptoms can worsen over time. That’s why it’s vital for sufferers of PTSD to receive intervention from a qualified professional.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Music therapy and PTSD

One form of complementary treatment to treat PTSD and other psychiatric illnesses, is music therapy. Music therapy is the use of music interventions to accomplish goals, e.g., to treat symptoms of PTSD. It can involve songwriting, or playing or listening to music.

Using music therapy to ease PTSD symptoms goes as far back as 1945 with the military’s Technical Bulletin 187, which observed how music affected the reconditioning of service members in Army hospitals.

The U.S. War Department discovered that music positively affected soldiers’ PTSD rehabilitation programs. This effect was demonstrated during physical reconditioning, occupational therapy, education, and recreation. The military followed up on this after the study was completed, attempting to further explore the possibilities of using music during therapy for recovering soldiers.

Various organizations have developed applications as a result of these studies to include programs ranging from active duty airmen improving their stress management and coping skills with music to using songwriting to treat PTSD symptoms.

Why use music therapy when traditional cognitive behavioral treatment exists?

Music therapy can be less intimidating than cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) because of one factor: stigma. Despite the ongoing efforts by mental health professionals to encourage those with psychiatric symptoms to seek counseling and psychiatric treatment, there is still a strong aversion toward seeking mental health services. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, between 30-80% of people with psychiatric illnesses do not seek treatment.

Many see music therapy as less intimidating or stigmatizing than psychotherapy, and thus is more broadly accepted.

Music therapy is a promising treatment for PTSD among service members

Since its initial success during World War II to treat symptoms of PTSD and promote recovery, associations such as the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) have helped develop its use to treat psychiatric illnesses such as PTSD.

There’s a long way to go until any PTSD treatment is perfected and universally helpful for sufferers of its symptoms, but music therapy is helping lead the way as a promising source of hope.