Taking Care of Veterans

taking care of veterans

How can a veteran get the Help he needs?

Veterans Day is a day to thank and honor both dead and living veterans of the United States. Unlike Memorial Day, Americans celebrate only those soldiers who died due to wounds received in battle. Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and was considered a legal holiday on November 11, 1918. It was a day to honor the end of World War I, and in 1938, legislation was passed dedicating the date 11-11 as the cause of world peace. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill announcing that 11-11 would no longer be called Armistice Day. From that day on, it would be called Veterans Day.

Fifty-seven years later, on 11/11/11, Americans will gather to honor veterans of all wars. At exactly 11:00 AM, a color guard from each branch of the military will honor the victims of war with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns (Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) in Arlington National Cemetery.

Factors Complicating Veterans’ Experience

You may have received enemy fire, explosions, or personal injury, feared for your safety, witnessed combat casualties and lived in harsh conditions from day to day, or experienced military sexual harassment and trauma. You may currently be dealing with losses such as homelessness and unemployment.

Military factors that may complicate your experience include training accidents and combat injuries resulting in death, a lengthy process to recover your friend’s body and transport it home for burial, limitations on viewing the remains due to the injuries, and the soldier’s young age, as nearly one-third of US troops killed in Iraq were between the ages of 18 and 21. Now that you’re back home, you may have to deal with unwanted media attention, civilian reactions to military deaths, and vengeful political protesters at the funeral.

As a veteran, you face a variety of issues, including a long wait for doctor’s appointments, driving several hours to see a mental health specialist, your spouse’s seeking a divorce or divorce, job loss or lack of suitable work, and negative stereotypes of military or veterans in the movies. Many veterans feel out of control while eating, and they have haunting images as a result of military trauma and need alcohol and/or drugs to get through their day. You may feel worried, anxious, irritable, frustrated, and preoccupied with anger.

Some veterans take prescription drugs without medical supervision and think about committing suicide. Too many veterans are hopeless, furious, and withdrawn from their friends, family, and communities and have no meaning in life. The VA suicide line receives about 10,000 calls per month. There are 950 suicide attempts per month by veterans receiving care from the VA, and eighteen veterans die by suicide every day. Five of them are under the care of the VA.

What do veterans go through?

Veterans deal with long-term grief disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and traumatic brain injuries. They may experience unwanted memories, volatile behavior, poor sleep, suspicion, withdrawal, and are more likely to have drug and alcohol disorders. Physical reactions include chronic pain, digestive disorders, Gulf War illness, and respiratory diseases. Physical disabilities include amputations and spinal cord injuries. Emotional reactions include feeling empty, furious, guilty, overwhelmed, and sad. Cognitive responses include forgetfulness, guilt, confusion, flashbacks, and self-doubt. Behavioral responses include feeling detached from the environment, intolerance, mistrust, refusing to talk, and sleep disturbances. Afraid of the future, abandoned,

Why Veterans Don’t Get Help

While what you are going through may be similar to what others are going through, many veterans refuse to seek help because they fear it will only make things worse. They feel stigmatization about how they will be perceived and shame that prevents them from seeking help. Some veterans don’t have the time to get Help because of responsibilities or don’t have the energy because of overwhelming grief, depression, and stress. Veterans may distrust professional helpers based on past contact or culture or have relatives who do not approve of seeking Help outside the family.

Good news for veterans:

It’s no secret that veterans have their feelings bottled up. I recently presented a program for veterans and asked them about those feelings. They mentioned three important points: 

1. trust, 

2. insecurity

3. anxiety. 

I asked them if they could prepare soldiers returning home for the challenges they could expect. What they would tell them Twenty of the best responses were: “

  1. You can do it!” 
  2. Go on vacation.
  3. Your family needs you.
  4. Become computer literate.
  5. Get all your medical records.
  6. Know that you have advantages.
  7. You will receive much praise.
  8. Ask for advice and seek therapy.
  9. Ask for Help with financial planning.
  10. Be part of your faith community.
  11. Always be ready for the unknown.
  12. Some problems don’t arise right away.
  13. Learn all you can about the GI Bill.
  14. Everything will seem uncertain.
  15. It will be hard to find a routine, but make sure you get one.
  16. Drinking won’t solve your problems.
  17. Find something to live for, and don’t kill yourself.
  18. Learn what the hardest to deal with and talk about it is. 
  19. You will not experience problems that other veterans do not.
  20. Join a group with your VA because being with other veterans will keep you going.

There’s a VA creed that I particularly like: “It takes the courage and strength of a warrior to ask for help.” The first strategy to improving your health is to get to know your mental health providers. Psychiatrists can offer individual therapy or work with psychologists who can provide group, marriage, and family counseling. Contact social workers to help you with your medical and benefits referrals and job counseling. Counselors can help you with grief. Your primary mental health provider is your main point of contact and coordinates your mental health treatment plan. Talk to your VA Medical Center physician who cares about your physical health and your mental health.

Veterans can draw strength from both affirmation and acronyms. I’ve listed them both and hope they help!

A confirmation from veterans: 

The following affirmation can help you find meaning in your experience and build resilience in your life: “I’m a veteran. I can accomplish anything I set out to do. I’m in control of the things that happen to me. I will have a positive attitude. I can guard my boundaries. I am confident in my role in life. I can change some of the problems I face. I am optimistic. What happens in my future is generally up to me. I feel connected to others. I’m a veteran. ” 

An acronym for “veterans.” 

An acronym is when you take the letters of a word and make a meaningful sentence with each of those letters. The main point about the abbreviation “VETERANS” is that it describes ways to stay resilient: 

Appreciate what you have learned about the power within you. 

Choose a word, phrase, or creed that comforts you. The 

true meaning of sharing your story is found when you find meaning in it. 

Educate yourself about self-compassion and stress management. Re-evaluate

who you are and what you have learned from serving your country. A lot of people 

find positive growth from being in the military. The new 

normal starts with getting out of the way. Stay

spiritually connected with those who have died serving their country. 

Extra Help for veterans

Many organizations can assist veterans, including the American Legion, American Veterans, Black Veterans for Social Justice, Coming Home Project (for vets and families), Department of Health and Human Services Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK, Veterans Press 1, National Association for Uniformed Services, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Military Family Association, National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Salute, Inc. (financial assistance), and Salute, Inc. (financial assistance). In colorado, Sponsorships are helping Veteran’s families.

There are many companies that are helping Disabled Veterans.