By Wayne Jebian
There are well over a million Hispanic military veterans in the United States, according to the National Council of La Raza, and that number is set to jump with the imminent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. As difficult as life has been for families having to cope with the day-to-day reality of a loved one being overseas and in harm’s way, some struggles will not end upon the troops’ return. Those who have experienced war often bring some of the war home with them.
“The road home from war can understandably be a bumpy one,” explains Gwendolyn Bassett, a clinician at the VA Medical Center in West Haven. “Coming home is often a significant culture shock as service members transition from the routines, risks, and dangers of the warzone to home life.”
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common post deployment mental health condition,” Basset continued. “Some struggle with other equally serious problems, such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety, TBI (traumatic brain injury), and/or a combination of these conditions.”
Communities looking to help their military families may want to look into a program called PEP, or People Empowering People, offered by the University of Connecticut. PEP is designed to teach family members communication skills, problem solving abilities, parenting and relationship skills. Facilitators can train at UConn to teach these courses locally.
Says PEP Facilitator Robin Drago-Provencher, “Cherry Czuba, who designed the UConn PEP program, has been extremely supportive of linking the program to the military. Some of the community programs, like Middletown, have had veterans participate.”
Deployment can take its toll on family members, particularly families of local National Guard units. The Red Cross, on its Website, explains why this is: “As more and more National Guard and Reserve units are called to full-time duty status, counseling has become increasingly important to prepare the civilian-based military members and their families for the period of activation. Because members of the National Guard and Reserve typically live in civilian neighborhoods, they and their families frequently have difficulty accessing much-needed, military-related social services.”
The American Red Cross maintains a hotline for members of the National Guard and Reserves and their families. Sometimes the organization and its partners can offer financial assistance for emergency travel, burial of a loved one, medical needs, housing utilities, etc.
The Red Cross is also offering a course called Coping with Deployments: Psychological First Aid to help military families deal with the pressures that deployments place on them. This course is not listed in the Red Cross catalog with the standard CPR and First Aid courses, so those who wand to know about meeting times and locations should contact their local Red Cross chapter.
Aside from mental health issues, many veterans may need assistance with housing and employment. Bassett, from the VA, urges any veterans with questions or concerns to get connected to VA Connecticut Healthcare.
Government and nonprofit agencies around the state offer services to either supplement the efforts of the Veterans Administration or help individuals obtain the appropriate services and benefits. The United Way of Connecticut maintains a 2-1-1 helpline to help individuals find community resources. Its veterans web page has a summary list of services offered by the VA and links to different departments such as the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Another link lists the district offices of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, which helps veterans file benefits claims. There are also links to service organizations such as American Legion of Connecticut, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Another valuable resource is ARMY OneSource, a searchable site with links to programs and resources for everything from employment to children’s activities. It also lists innovative new coping tools, such as a smartphone app called LifeArmor, designed to teach service members and their families how to better manage the challenges of military life.
Information and resources:
- 2-1-1 Veterans Resources
- American Red Cross: Connecticut Chapter
- ARMY One Source
- Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs
- Connecticut Clearinghouse
(800) 232-4424 or (860) 793-9791
- National Guard Family Program
- University of Connecticut PEP (People Empowering People)
- VA Connecticut Healthcare System
Newington (860) 666-6951
West Haven: (203) 932-5711