Dr. Buzz Aldrin, talks with us about veteran's affairs and his personal remedy to help deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As he inherited depression from his mother who committed suicide the year before he landed on the moon, he knows a thing or two about it. His grandfather also committed suicide.
It is an honor to welcome the second man to walk on the moon, Dr. Buzz Aldrin back to The Global Townhall for his third interview. For his other interviews with us please see the side of this page for links.
Gabrielle Reilly: What do you plan to work on for the next five years?
Buzz Aldrin: Well let’s see, my encouragement for veterans to hand salute so that the public around them can see who our veterans proudly exhibiting their service to the country. That’ll pretty much be over hopefully after the next Super Bowl game.
I am focused on the development of busy positive opportunities for post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) veterans, who are committing suicide at a rate of about 22 per day, by exposing them to light airplane simulator flying. Between operating some handheld test of the abilities to hold altitude and heading, followed by actual flight in a light airplane, we hope that this will stimulate the people who can’t get a job, and are very depressed and worried about their future. It’ll get their mind off their difficulties and into positive achievements and these are the things that I’ve found in my own experience with inherited depression, which I still have from time to time.
Getting out and doing something that makes me feel good about what I can do, even if it’s a small thing that boosts up the morale. The good feeling of people I think may help tremendously in reducing the veterans coming back with great changes in their mental attitudes toward themselves, their achievements, their future, their job attainment and what after they’ve experienced the very adverse conditions of surface warfare in the Middle East.
Gabrielle Reilly: Do you know of the command General Staff College out at Fort Leavenworth Kansas?
Buzz Aldrin: I sure do. I’ve spoken to people there. In my career there are three schools to go to, first to Squadron Officer School which I attended in Alabama. Then the Command and General Staff College which I was involved in many other things, the Korean War, the Services Astronaut and then commanding the Test Pilot School. I just didn’t have the opportunity to attend that at second-level and the third level which is the Air War College. So those are the service oriented career opportunities for education.
Gabrielle Reilly: Yes, it’s considered “the brain of the Army.” I’m proud to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Command General Staff College Foundation. I particularly love the International Military Program they have… the Officers go on to be leaders in their own countries which include the current President of Indonesia and Prime Minister of Singapore. The strong relationships that have been forged between the Officers and their family during their stay at Fort Leavenworth have been widely known to avoid conflict around the world over the decades. I wish the public new the breadth of it. It’s a great program!
What are you most concerned about with PTSD?
Buzz Aldrin: Well that could be if the development and evolution of these various locations, 7 or 10 or so around the country, who are providing these positive experiences for veterans with PTSD. Once we’re a little further along we can gain momentum by further acceptance by the Veterans Administration which in the minds of many of us feel that we’ve let down our veterans returning from conflict. They are processing claims and predicting that by 2015 they ought to be catching up with the claims that are being made now.
Well how many people are going to commit suicide between now and 2015? If that’s as rapid as American leadership can take care of those who defend our country’s ability to be able to freely choose. We’re just choosing to honor the wrong people. We’re choosing to honor, unfortunately, many people in Congress who are interested in short-term acquisition of funds, projects for their district more than they are for future national achievements, national benefits and investments.
Gabrielle Reilly: There does seem to have been a shift in thinking away from big picture dreaming and vision like there was in the ‘60s and ‘70s to more of just short-term thinking. It would be really nice to see the country go back to being big visionaries again.
Buzz Aldrin: Well certainly the young people are deviating from an interest in significant achievements beyond the immediate self-gratification, whether it’s getting a money paying job, if that is the purpose, that certainly isn’t the purpose of people who attend military academies, West Point and Naval Academy. They’ve committed themselves to the service of their country and there shouldn’t be such a great divide between those universities, Ivy league perhaps and many others. They are really dedicated to putting out lawyers who aren't interested in helping people but in a great return to them and also financial people who are primarily interested in the acquisition of more wealth as they manage other people’s desire for the acquisition of more wealth.
Gabrielle Reilly: Yes, it’s an interesting statistic to note that in Congress 20 - 30 years ago 70% of the Representatives were made up from military background. And now that’s down to, the latest I’ve looked at it, it was down to something like 16% and the majority was now made up by lawyers. So there’s been a great shift in who is representing us. Perhaps we should assess how the health care costs related to litigation has increased throughout this transition…
Buzz Aldrin: Well unfortunately that law introduced by Senator Inhofe in ‘08 and signed by the president did not include the opening ceremony of congressmen in the morning by rendering a hand salute to the flag of the United States or to the Pledge of Allegiance or to the Star-Spangled Banner, some rituals like that. We open the Congress with a prayer but it doesn’t exhibit who has done what in the past.
I don’t know whether I can get someone who is of military service in the Congress to perhaps amend that law so that not just Congress, but other gatherings of people in significant control of the interests of the American people can be demonstrating the pride of service to their country themselves and others, but also to those who have not done that. And we take photographs and TV of that episode and we pan around and we see just who is a veteran and broadcast it to the public. Celebrate people who have served in the military or people who are now serving hopefully the long-term interests of the American people, instead of their own interests.
Gabrielle Reilly: That is a great idea and also for the self-esteem of the soldiers coming home.
Buzz Aldrin: Exactly. It really flows down from the top to the lowest. I think President Eisenhower reflected a strong respect for all Americans of the military service that he attained. We haven’t quite done that since then to my knowledge.
Gabrielle Reilly: Yes. In fact last week I worked on an interview with 3 Star General Caldwell who is the Commanding General of the Fifth Army. He specifically wanted to focus on the troop drawdown. There’s going to be 80,000 soldiers coming out into the marketplace. He is trying to explain to the businesses throughout the nation how important it is to employ these well-trained soldiers. So anything you can do along those lines to of encouraging people to employ the soldiers coming back would also be awesome.
Buzz Aldrin: I do have some sporadic time available. I usually earn my income by giving speeches in various places. Unfortunately the government just did not compensate those 24 people who reached the moon adequately for the dedication, the service to their country so we have to do things like signing autographs on many things and accepting engagements for the receiving of honoraria and significant funding from relating our experiences in the past and our dreams of the future. We’re just not adequately compensated so we’re not attracting the best minds into endorsement of what our future should be.
Gabrielle Reilly: Well, The Global Townhall certainly appreciates your service and all that you do for veterans and the country. Thanks so much for your time, it was an honor. For Dr. Aldrins fourth interview with us, please CLICK HERE.