Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Network helps vets cope with stresses

Web site offers assistance with counseling, other aid By Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN • July 7, 2009 Mike Jones returned from tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart — and combat stress. He was restless and irritable. He wasn't sleeping, and the most commonplace things — a noise, a word, a date on the calendar, even an argument with his wife — triggered combat-honed reflexes that were completely inappropriate for civilian life. "I came home and I realized a lot of other soldiers were facing the same issues," Jones said. He got the help and counseling he needed to deal with his war trauma, but knew many of his fellow veterans were trying to gut out their problems alone. Thousands of soldiers have marched home from war, only to find that it's not so easy to leave the stress and terror of the battlefield behind. They're not alone anymore. Jones and Nashville businessman Carter Andrews have teamed up to found the Warriors' Legacy Fund, a network dedicated to getting returning soldiers the counseling and help they need, and that the system doesn't always provide. "This is a community foundation in Middle Tennessee dedicated to helping soldiers and their families deal with the invisible wounds of war," Andrews said. Veterans share stories online Their Web site is a place where veterans and their families can share stories and reach out for help. There are forums, personal narratives, blogs and educational resources. In one recent blog post, a poster named "Bulldog" talked about the toll civilian life has taken on his unit since it returned home. His unit has been deployed three times, and the soldiers were recently informed that they would be redeploying within the year. "My unit had been home for a little less than six months. We had one suicide threat, multiple car accidents, divorces, at least one that I remember in jail for domestic assault. I had one kid that went AWOL, twice, and he was a good soldier," Bulldog wrote. Still, when he got together with his buddies for the Fourth of July, he realized that life could still be sweet. "Even though we were all dealing with our demons, I was still thankful that life was good," he wrote. "That's my point. Even though we have our demons, life can still be good. If you can still sweat and you can still bleed, then it is good." The Warriors Legacy Fund operates a toll-free hot line, 800-273-8255, for those who urgently need to talk. For more information, visit the site at http://www.notalone.com

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