On some issues that affect me personally, I do what I can to advocate for public education and sensible courses of action. Having lost a number of friends to the Vietnam war and its aftermath, this for me is a big one. What follows is a combination news release and resources list for war-injured veterans and families.
A drumbeat of recent news reports has called attention to rising rates of suicide among soldiers, post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and hardships of military families facing multiple deployments to war zones. How communities can help address these often shattering effects of war is the focus of public forums in several cities on or around Veterans Day.
In Hoboken, NJ, the Nov. 11 event is being held at the high school under the sponsorship of Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the Board of Education. It features a showing of “Leave No Soldier,” a documentary by Donna Bassin about veterans helping one another deal with troubling war legacies; a staged reading from a new play, “Flashback,” by Penny Coleman, about the emotional turmoil in families of veterans who killed themselves; and a panel discussion of veterans and counselors with the audience.
“It is important that we honor our veterans and remember the sacrifices they have made to preserve our freedom and our way of life,” said Zimmer. “Equally important is our support as they transition themselves back to their families and society after months or years of serving their country.”
Similar events are being held at the City Library in Manchester, NH; First Unitarian Church in Ithaca, NY; Cable Car Cinema in Providence, RI; Rutgers Prep School in Sussex, NJ, and First Unitarian Church in New Orleans, LA. The events were organized by local civic organizations—including Military Families Speak Out, Veterans For Peace, Pax Christi, Unitarians, municipal officials and students at a private school—as part of the Veterans Day Town Meeting Project. The project is directed by Donna Bassin and Jan Barry, coeditor of Winning Hearts & Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans and a founder of one of the first Vietnam veteran support groups.
“Supporting our troops requires more than welcoming them home, but also listening and responding to their concerns,” Bassin said in offering her film for showings at Veterans Day town meetings. “A big concern for many soldiers and their families is how to handle the transition back to civilian life. A big concern for many older veterans and their loved ones is how to handle the emotional distress of flashbacks set off by current events.
“Among the most emotional of times for war veterans is Veterans Day,” she continued. “Community support is not complicated, but requires a welcoming space where veterans and family members can speak candidly and get feedback, and perhaps useful information and contacts, from a supportive audience.”
“Leave No Soldier,” directed and produced by Bassin, documents emotional journeys by two groups of veterans—Rolling Thunder, Inc. and Veterans For Peace/Iraq Veterans Against the War—that transformed a military oath from the battlefield to social activism. The two groups are divided by their politics, but united in devotion to their pledge to “leave no fallen soldier behind.” Bassin is a psychologist who aided 9/11 rescue workers and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
“Flashback” was created by Penny Coleman, Elana Michelson and Patricia Lee Stotter based on the book, Flashback, by Coleman. It explores issues of post-traumatic stress injuries from the point of view of widows of Vietnam veterans who committed suicide.
Veterans Day Town Meeting events:
Nov. 5, 6 p.m. -- City Library, 405 Pine Street, Manchester, NH
Nov. 7, 7 p.m. -- First Unitarian Church, 306 N. Aurora St., Ithaca, NY
Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m. -- Hoboken High School, 800 Clinton St., Hoboken, NJ
Nov. 11, 7 p.m. -- Rutgers Prep School, Easton Ave., Somerset, NJ
Nov. 11, 7 p.m. -- Rhode Island Association of Psychoanalytic Psychologies, at Cable Car Cinema, 204 South Main St., Providence, RI
Nov. 11, 7 p.m. -- First Unitarian Universalist Church, 5212 South Claiborne Avenue, New Orleans, LA
For further information:
Vets and Family Resources List
Coming Home Project is a non-profit organization providing care, support and stress management tools for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.
Give an Hour asks mental health professionals to donate an hour a week to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families.
National Veterans Foundation provides assistance and advice by veterans with experience from Vietnam to Iraq, trained in crisis management for PTSD and suicide prevention.
Service Women’s Action Network promotes services for women in the military and women veterans.
The Soldiers Project offers free psychological treatment to military service members and veterans of OEF and OIF, as well as members of their families and other loved ones.
Veterans for America sponsors Wounded Warrior Outreach Program and “The American Veterans’ and Servicemembers’ Survival Guide.”
Veterans Health Council, sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America, provides information on health issues and programs for veterans and families.
Vets4Vets is a non-partisan veteran organization dedicated to helping Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans through the use of peer support.
Welcome Back Veterans is a Major League Baseball-sponsored project to help find jobs and job training for returning veterans and to raise funds for mental-health programs.
Wounded Warrior Project offers services to help injured veterans cope with combat stress or trauma.
War Related Illness and Injury Study Center in NJ is one of three VA centers that provide medical evaluations and information on difficult health problems from military service.
My HealtheVet is the gateway to health benefits and services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
VA Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to veterans of any combat zone. Services are also available for family members for military related issues.
New Jersey Veterans Helpline Program -- 866-VETNJ4 (838-7654) -- provides free, confidential peer counseling and referrals for treatment to NJ soldiers and families.
Gateway to four nonprofit sites that offer PTSD information and resources, including the National Center for PTSD.
PTSD support site created by a Vietnam vet on how to navigate the VA system.
Veterans of Foreign Wars outreach on PTSD, how to contact the VA’s Vet Centers nationwide and VFW service officers for assistance.
Combat PTSD blog featuring research, news, resources, and events for returning veterans coping with post-combat reintegration issues.
Brain Injury Association of New York State’s Traumatic Brain Injury Training and Military Veteran’s Services Project is a resource for providers and families on the symptoms of and treatment for TBI.
Brain Injury Association of New Jersey helps returning military personnel and their families with information, support, resources, and training about traumatic brain injury.
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is a non-profit organization that offers grief support services to military families facing the loss of a loved one.
Complied by Veterans Day Town Meeting Project