Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
Before we observe Veteran’s Day on November 11, Woman Around Town completes a three-part series by career strategist Jason Veduccio interviewing experts who help returning warriors re-enter the workplace. This week, Jason talks with Leslie Lightfoot who is the Founder and Executive Director of the Veteran’s Homestead Inc., an independent, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Fitchburg, Massachusetts whose mission is to provide medical, psychological, and spiritual care to veterans who are diagnosed with a terminal illness, elderly, disabled, or otherwise in need.
Part III – Holistic Help for Veterans
Many might think of a veteran’s search for work as something that begins with a resume and an interview but in many cases that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Returning soldiers face numerous challenges, beginning with finding proper housing and medical care. In the last part to this series I went a bit deeper into the roots of the problem, still under the assumption that veterans are in the best position to help their fellow veterans – with our support.
This brought me to Leslie Lightfoot, a humble and soft-spoken woman quietly doing incredible things for veterans on a national level. After learning of her organization and its work I was eager to meet this person who works tirelessly to develop a safety net for those courageous soldiers who return most in need. Yet when speaking with her she was sturdy in her humility, always pointing the attention to others, to the veterans and their families. I mentioned to her a few times that her story was important too, if only because through it we will learn of other stories. (Please see below for a more complete bio of Leslie Lightfoot.)
How did you become interested in the armed services? Did you come from a military family?
My father and uncles were all World War II veterans, but upon my father’s return from his duty in Germany he left the service for civilian life so I wasn’t necessarily an “army brat” but it was then I became interested in the military.
Was it then that you knew you wanted to follow in his footsteps in some way?
When I was nine years old my father gave me his Purple Heart and though at that age I didn’t know exactly what it was, I knew it was something very important to him and it affected me deeply. Then because of the times we were in, a very good friend of mine got killed in Vietnam and that also awakened me to something. I came from a middle class background in Canton, Ohio and most of the kids from my neighborhood were drafted, and so all of it was very much on my mind at the time. But when my friend got killed it really became something I felt strongly about, so at the end of high school I wanted to save the world as they say, and I joined, though at that time they weren’t sending female medics to Vietnam, they only sent nurses, so I ended up in Germany – just like my father.
What was it like coming back from that war as a female veteran?
Everyone knew that if you were a male you were probably drafted but as a woman they knew that you had chosen to join and because of the anti-war sentiment at the time I remember returning and going to a basketball game in Ohio wearing my uniform and I was so proud yet people looked at me like I was a pariah – so it set the stage for me not wanting to tell anyone I was a vet for a while.
When did it change for you and what brought you to working with veterans?
I went to school in Massachusetts and got a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in psychology and I became board certified in traumatic stress. I started to work with combat vets at a shelter in Boston, but at the same time I was also taking workshops in Virginia with famed psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross who wrote On Death and Dying. All of this got me involved but it truly crystallized when I met this one man, his name was Tom Evans, a veteran of Korea. He was in the hospital and he couldn’t stay because he had no insurance, and he had no family, and he was dying of cancer with just eight months to live. So upon seeing this I talked to my family and we agreed to take him in but sadly he died that weekend. So that was the defining moment of “something needs to be done here” for me and that’s how the veteran’s hospice got started, a twelve bed facility in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
Tell me about some of the challenges veterans you care for face before they can even consider looking for work?
Many times the physical challenges are more obvious and those need acute attention, but what people don’t realize, even veterans themselves at times, is that other factors such as alcohol abuse can really exacerbate their problems. And some don’t have close family relationships and we try to encourage them to become closer if it’s possible. Others are now older and their spouses have passed or they have a hard time living on a small pension. So the problems are many but as they heal, work becomes an important part of the equation.
How did your efforts expand?
As we saw veterans with more diverse problems, we started something called the Armistice Homestead that used to be a rest home so we made that an aftercare program for veterans for when they leave an alcohol treatment center. It’s a place where they can live while they look for work and for a place of their own. After that we opened a farm in New Hampshire, where we use animal therapy and the veterans tend to the farm. It’s a very structured program but it does so well because these animals have no judgments and seeing the way these veterans would care for them, it really helps.
I noticed you opened a program in Puerto Rico. How did that come about?
After the farm we opened a program in Puerto Rico because it’s a part of the United States, and the amount of veterans per capita is greater than in any other state or commonwealth. According to my friends in combat, Puerto Ricans make fantastic soldiers and are extremely patriotic.
What are you working on most recently?
We have opened Northeast Veteran’s Training and Rehabilitation Center in Gardner, Massachusetts where vets can come with their whole families. We have ten acres of land and twenty condos. They pay on a sliding scale depending on what they can afford. In addition, they pay no heat or electricity because we are geothermal and use photovoltaics to capture solar energy. The local college there, Mount Wachusett Community College not only offers education for the veteran but also offers a free education to the spouse – which is terrific. And then all forms of counseling are available. Many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress, which is mostly misunderstood by so many.
What is PTS ?
PTS is something many try to define but it’s sprawling. It’s not always just the combat stress. Sometimes things that happened before they even joined were enough for people to have psychological stress after leaving the armed services. Anyone who has been traumatized can be showing signs of stress and some people won’t recognize it.
In terms of treatment for PTS, what is your methodology?
Shut up and wear beige. The people working with anyone who is traumatized you need to listen, listen, listen. And if you’ve been in the military it does help because certain things don’t have to be explained. So I tend to shut up and wear beige.
What do your programs do to help get them work?
Because we always try and treat the whole person, we help them with everything from resumes to tutors to free education arrangements with local schools. Anything they need to prepare, we try to provide. One of our caseworker’s even brought in an outfit for someone to wear to an interview. We can do this because we keep the size of our facilities manageable.
Are any corporations doing more than others to hire Veterans?
Yes. Home Depot hires a lot of our veterans, I don’t know if it’s policy for them but I know they do. And that’s on a national level. Other places that work in defense do as well – for instance Raytheon also hires a lot of veterans. But across the board it’s not as common it should be.
Is there anything someone reading this can do to help?
Educate, educate, educate – yourself and others! And learn about PTS. Not everyone who has it is so obvious, and just because they have it does NOT mean they can’t function. It just means you have to learn to notice it and how it affects the person’s point of view and that takes education.
If anyone reading this knows a Veteran returning from duty, where can they get information that we can learn from?
Leslie served in the Army as a medic from 1967 – 1970, then pursued and obtained a bachelors and a master’s degree in psychology. She is also a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress. Leslie has been serving the needs of the veteran community since she left the army in 1970, is a nationally recognized expert on PTSD and has developed seven successful projects for veterans in need. Leslie has served on the boards of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, The Central MA Coalition for Homeless Veterans, The Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund and on the Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in Washington D.C. and the Governor of Massachusetts. Her Awards include Hometown Hero Award from both Worcester Magazine and Boston radio station WTKK, the DAR Medal of Honor, Unsung Hero award for Civic Engagement from Mount Wachusett Community College and an array of certificates of appreciation from federal, state and local dignitaries. She has two daughters and a son that are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Mel Gibson is back with a vengeance, directing a World War II drama based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who goes into battle without a rifle and ends up saving the lives of 75 soldiers. Gibson, who won an Academy Award for directing Braveheart, has not directed a film since 2006’s Apocalypto. After a stellar career as both an actor and director, in 2010, Gibson suffered a series of public meltdowns. He was dropped by his talent agency and essentially treated as a persona non grata. Hollywood, however, loves a good comeback story and this film could help Gibson restart his career. While not rising to the level of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge is a riveting wartime drama that celebrates an unexpected and unconventional hero.
Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving) served in World War I and emerged with a medal and a damaged psyche. After watching several of his friends die horrible deaths, he returned home and began drinking and abusing his wife. “You didn’t know him before the war,” his wife, Bertha (Rachel Griffiths), says in his defense. When Tom threatens Bertha with a gun, their son, Des (Andrew Garfield), manages to take the weapon away and turn it on his father. That event becomes a tipping point in Des’s life, leading him to embrace his religion as a Seventh Day Adventist, eschew all forms of violence, and vow never again to touch a gun.
Teresa Palmer and Andrew Garfield
Des discovers his medical talent when he saves a man’s life by using his belt as a tourniquet. While at the hospital, he meets an attractive nurse, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), whom he vows to marry. Initially reluctant, Dorothy is won over by Des’s “aw-shucks” charm and his admirable adherence to his religious values.
After his brother, Harold (Nathaniel Buzolic) enlists – over the objections of his father – Des feels obligated to do his part, signing on to become an Army medic. Des winds up in a boot camp where each recruit is required to carry a rifle and learn how to use it. While Army medics are tasked to treat those injured, they also carry weapons for protection. Des’s refusal to even touch a rifle is viewed as placing not only himself, but also his fellow soldiers at risk. An inflexible military system threatens him with a court martial. The way he escapes conviction is unusual, but, from the film’s point of view, satisfying.
Des’s Courtmartial Hearing
Des’s unit is sent to Okinawa, where a battle is raging on a rocky, desolate plateau dubbed Hacksaw Ridge. Taking the territory would allow the Allies to score an important victory against the Japanese, but the battle will be bloody and costly. Remember the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan, showing Americans landing on the beaches in Normandy? That scene was mild compared with the relentless battlefield carnage we see in Hacksaw Ridge. Limbs are blown off, guts spilled, and Japanese soldiers incinerated with flame throwers. In the midst of this human destruction, Des continues his mission, treating and rescuing as many soldiers as he can. With each wounded soldier he finds, he does what he can, applying tourniquets to staunch bleeding, administering morphine to deal with pain. He drags each wounded soldier to the lip of the ridge and slowly lowers them to the ground below using a rope, that, while knotted improperly, still does the trick. Running on fumes, he returns again and again to find someone he might have missed, praying to God to give him strength to save “just one more.” Garfield’s performance is intense. While we know that he will survive (the real Des went on to become the only CO to receive the Medal of Honor), each time he risks going back to the battlefield, we fear for his safety.
The soldiers Des saves are transported to the camp’s medical facility. Des’s commanding officer, Captain Glover (Sam Worthington), is shocked to see so many from his platoon alive and being treated. When he asks one soldier, Milt Zane, nicknamed “Hollywood” (Luke Pegler), how he got out, he credits Des. Others repeat the medic’s name. When the final tally comes in, Des has saved 75 soldiers. Someone once viewed as a coward for his reluctance to carry a weapon winds up being the hero of the battle.
There are memorable performances among the supporting cast. Vince Vaughn, in a departure from his comic roles, is effective as Sergeant Howell, who bullies Des, hoping he will drop out, but winds up being saved by the medic. Weaving’s Tom Doss is a tragic figure who redeems himself and repairs the relationship with his wife and family. Seen through a present-day lens, Tom has PTSD, and Weaving’s poignant performance allows us to see his suffering. As a soldier called “Smitty,” Luke Bracey has a touching scene with Garfield. Sharing a foxhole, Smitty, who was once Des’s nemesis, finds he has a lot in common with the CO, a surprising friendship formed in the midst of war.
Before we observe Veteran’s Day on November 11, Woman Around Town continues a series by career expert Jason Veduccio interviewing experts who help returning warriors re-enter the workplace. This week, Jason talks with Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Joseph C. Barto III (Retired) who is the Founder and President of TMG (Training Modernization Group) that offers customized solutions to top international corporations looking to increase productivity and performance.
Part II – Helping Vets Help America’s Businesses
Veterans already in the workplace are in the best position to help their fellow veterans, but they cannot do it alone. Corporate America must pitch in to help. The result would be a win-win: corporations will benefit from employing veterans who are highly trained, loyal, dedicated, driven, courageous, and adept at problem-solving, while the veterans will find meaningful, well-paying jobs that can help them transition back into civilian life.
That message was emphasized during my conversation with LTC Joseph C. Barto III, a gentleman with as much confidence as cordiality. He spoke to me by phone during a break in his hectic schedule, and though he hadn’t any previous knowledge of my questions, his answers were focused and genuine and he spoke with the essence of a man who knew exactly what it was he wanted to say. (Please see below for a more complete bio of LTC Barto.)
When did you first consider a life or work in the military?
I was an Army brat in Atlanta who happened to be a pretty good basketball player. I was recruited by the United States Military Academy at West Point and attended where I was in the first recruiting class for a new young head coach there named Mike Krzyzewski. (Krzyzewski is the now legendary coach of the Duke basketball team.)
When did you begin to think that helping Veteran’s find work was something that needed someone’s attention?
When I was a kid I asked my Dad about his life after World War II when he had returned from the European Theater. He said that he went home to Bethlehem, PA after he was discharged and went to Bethlehem Steel and asked for a job. They told him to come back the next day ready to work—good enough for our country good enough for us. I thought to myself, that’s how it should be now – and not because it’s right, but because if these corporations understand the value of an employee who has served in the armed forces, then it simply becomes a good business decision.
What were some challenges you saw in Veteran’s finding work?
Vets have come to expect good 1st Line Leadership, to be taught what they are expected to do for the very beginning, to feel like they are a part of a team they can be loyal to, to see a future with the business, and to have at least the salary they had in the service with full benefits. Many companies will not or can not provide this environment which makes this about our businesses more than about the Vets.
Were there many groups out there helping in this area?
Yes, there are and some are great. The issue is that many are focused on the Veteran’s themselves, by tutoring them on resumes, showing them how to dress, even teaching them more skills, and in reality we should be focused on the companies. They must pull the Vets into the business as opposed to pushing Vets into the workforce and hope something good happens.
What types of companies are you speaking of?
In some ways all of them but more strategically, 80% of businesses are hiring very few employees each year, maybe one or two, while the larger corporations, those with 1,000 or more employees, they usually have more extensive yearly hiring commitments. The key is identifying those smaller businesses who want to hire and retain Vest but they just don’t know how.
What are some things that TMG is doing to help?
TMG serves corporations with the best solutions for Leader Performance and Workforce Productivity systems. Through TMG we have developed a Vet Pipeline system that we customize to specific company circumstances. We branded it Vet-STRONG. The Vet-STRONG system is designed to help companies across America successfully recruit and retain military Veterans.
What are some of the qualities of the Vet-STRONG Initiative?
We offer a process to hiring and retaining Veterans that focuses on training the company to see the value in this type of employee. After a company has shown interest they complete a Vet Ready Self-Assessment (VRA) to determine if they want to move from being Vet Friendly to Vet STRONG. After TMG conducts a VRA on-site, and analysis is used to design a more focused model, at that point TMG customizes a Vet Pipeline for said company’s Vet-Strong program. After a pilot period TMG hands off the Vet-STRONG Program to the company who now has a valuable channel for finding and retaining these employees.
How do you classify these companies?
We do it by size, from small, medium to large and then enterprise-size companies which tend to hire 500+ people per year.
What types of things do you think companies would benefit from knowing about Veterans?
The first thing I tell them is that companies in the private sector really have no understanding of what a Veteran even is, for instance there are so many different kinds, with different skill sets and yet for many, they all are seen as this one grouping of “Veterans”. Vet is a really big word. Secondly I tell them about the military’s recruiting system and how our system already disqualified only 1 out of 4 youths between the ages of 17-24 so you should take advantage of the quality young people available. Lastly I try to explain a bit about the lives of these Veterans: how they may have moved 3 or 4 times in just a few years, or how they might have spent over half their time overseas, or that many are used to promotions and value the responsibility that comes with it. It is through an understanding these nuances that can help make the relationship more organic.
Is there anything people reading this can do to help?
Well first of all yes we can all do something. Spreading the word is a start. But it’s not helping people like me. It’s about helping these Veterans and at the same time, corporate America. If we could get people on board to train companies, better describe the challenges of the workforce to Veteran’s, and finally reach out to more Veterans in a more consistent manner, we would make a lot of head way. And if corporate America is out there listening, please contact someone to learn about these incredible people who can help make your company better. Hire and Retain a Vet… it will be the best business decision you will ever make.
Read the first part of Jason’s series, an interview with Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Eric Furey (Retired), who helps finds veterans looking for work, mostly in the defense industry as contractors.
If you would like to contact LTC Barto please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be forwarded.
LTC Joseph C. Barto III (Retired) has created and led TMG, Inc. to consistent, near perfect business performance since it’s founding as Training Modernization Group in July 2002. A values-driven Program Management Services company, TMG’s high level of performance has been recognized by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2009 for Excellence in Practice with partners across America. TMG analyzes, designs, develops, pilots, implements and transitions Leader Performance and Workforce Productivity systems for companies such as Northrop Grumman, ESCO, Ball Metal Beverage Packaging, BAE Systems Ship Repair, Liebherr Mining Equipment, Lifetouch Studios, Aera Energy, L3 Communications, and North Florida Shipyards.
A retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, Barto graduated and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Armor at the United States Military Academy in 1978 where he was an Army basketball player for Coach Mike Krzyzewski. During Operation Desert Shield and Storm he was the Chief of Operations for the 25,000 soldier 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) and the Executive Office for Task Force 2-4 CAV which led the division into the Euphrates River Valley attacking the Iraqi Republican Guards. He is the author of Task Force 2-4 CAV: First In — Last Out, a study of leadership in the most challenging, stressful, and demanding leadership environment—combat. He was a Special Assistant to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the primary author of the June 1996 Joint Training Manual.
He holds a Master Degree in Public Administration (Organizational Theory and Leadership) from James Madison University, was a Charter member of the United States Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative, serves on the Southeast Region Board of Directors for the Association of Manufacturing Excellence and is a long time Director of the New Horizons Regional Education Center Foundation. He is on the Steering Committee for the Hampton Roads Quality Management Council and the Chair, Workforce Development Committee of the Virginia Offshore Wind Coalition.
In 2008, Barto was diagnosed with vocal chord cancer and with the help of his family, his medical team and his college friend and basketball teammate, Krzyzewski, he is now cancer free. He has been married to Tricia for 34 years, and they have four sons of which the two oldest and Tricia are a core part of the family business.
Eric Arthur Blair aka George Orwell (1903–1950) was born in Bengal, India, but raised in England. He went to increasingly fine schools as a “charity boy” (on scholarship) after which, at loose ends, he spent five years in Burma as a policeman. Determined to write, the young man then lived in London and Paris taking menial jobs to support his first book Down and Out in Paris and London. In order not to embarrass the family, Blair adopted the nom de plume Orwell. As he says in the play, “Mr. Blair was Mr. Orwell before Mr. Orwell became himself.”
Politics took hold during and after the writing of his second effort, Burmese Days, a severe look at British colonialism. Two years later, he joined a group fighting against General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Best known for later, political novels, Animal Farm (whose two main pigs were said to represent Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky) and 1984, Orwell addressed imperialism, fascism and communism with passion and integrity as author and journalist. Himself a socialist, the author declared that Animal Farm was “a book about totalitarianism.” (Look up your isms.)
The fictitious premise of Joe Sutton’s play is an American book tour for Animal Farm shepherded by twenty-something, attractive Carlotta Morrison, a stand-in for editor Sonia Brownell, whom Orwell married a short time before his death of tuberculosis. A frisky widower who, in fact, had an open marriage, the author matter-of-factly proposes to Carlotta five minutes into the piece. Their push/pull continues throughout adding an appealing frisson without venturing outside British reserve or becoming unlikely.
Orwell accepted this uncomfortably public role in order, one surmises, to promote political beliefs “I did not agree to be muzzled” while Carlotta presses for concentration on Animal Farm “…people want you to say Communism is evil” and humanizing her charge in order to sell books. Segueing (with lighting) back and forth between excerpts of his lectures and often combative, sometimes flirty private conversations, the play both sketches Orwell’s background and illuminates the era.
The protagonist represents England/Europe in the aftermath of WWII and deprivations it continued to suffer affecting its politics. (A visual reminder of this is shocking.) The somewhat idealistic Carlotta thinks, “We’re in the midst of choosing what’s best for the human spirit.” A single allusion to the House Un-American Activities Committee echoes.
It’s neither necessary to know Orwell’s history nor to have read Animal Farm in order to enjoy the play. In fact, this is probably the best, most comprehensible retelling of the latter you’re likely to hear. It is helpful to know something about history and these political philosophies, however.
Playwright Joe Sutton has given us a completely credible character in this stubborn, Eton-styled Orwell (Jamie Horton) with strong beliefs and an appreciative eye. The presence of Carlotta (Jeanna de Waal) offers American public opinion, a balance to rhetoric, and the personal. Actor Casey Predovic acts as occasional off stage heckler and eventual reassurance of Orwell’s effect on people. A piece for those who think.
Jamie Horton, who here closely resembles his character, is marvelous. If the actor is not British, he could certainly pass in rarefied circles. Mannerisms are polished and conservative. Horton has a twinkle in his roving eye where apt and a pitch perfect, self depreciating laugh. He looks into our eyes when lecturing and at Carlotta with palpable attention. Orwell’s personal revelations are moving. Thought is evident; listening occurs in real time. A thoroughly engaging performance.
Jeanna de Waal offers just the right balance of historically subjugated Vassar smarts, ambition, femininity, and youth. She executes pauses, hesitance and switchbacks effectively and convinces us of some attraction for her charge.
Director Peter Hackett gives us two such distinctly different characters we can almost see class, geography and history . The piece is elegantly paced. Flares and reflections read equally well.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Northern Stages presents Orwell in America by Joe Sutton Featuring Jamie Horton & Jeanna de Waal with Casey Predovic Directed by Peter Hackett Through October 30, 2016 59E59 Theaters 59 East 59th Street