World War II was the last war fought in which the President asked Congress for a declaration of war. Nevertheless, United States armed forces have been engaged in combat operations ever since ~ most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. Never before has our country been engaged in battle for so long a period of time, and never in our history has such a heavy burden been placed on our service members and their families, with no end in sight. Like most Americans, I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices these dedicated people are making for the rest of us, and I worry about them, too. How will these brave men and women reintegrate back into their families and into society when they return from military combat, and what is the military doing to facilitate that?
My interest in this question prompted me to listen to a riveting 90-minute Webinar, Understanding PTSD and the Military's Role in Resilience, Recovery and Reintegration for Service Members and Families. Moderated by Steve Robinson, veterans advocate and key military advisor to This Emotional Life, and featuring Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, MD, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), the program focused on military combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the resources available to assist warriors and their families.
“The unseen wounds of war are real,” Gen. Sutton asserted, "and a new model is needed to prepare our troops and their families in advance for their return home." They need specific strategies and skill sets, ready access to resources, and a referral network to – as one soldier aptly put it – “adjust from being a target to shopping at Target.”
In order to promote the processes of building resilience, facilitating recovery and supporting reintegration of returning service members, veterans and their families, Gen. Sutton advocates early intervention, making certain that warriors, their buddies and their family members know and recognize the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic combat stress reactions and related mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. It’s also important, she said, for them to have hope, knowing that help for these conditions is effective and readily available.
Accordingly the DcoE has undertaken a number of initiatives and developed programs to help keep our warriors and their families psychologically strong and encourage them to reach out for help when needed:
- The Real Warriors Campaign combats the stigma associated with seeking psychological health care and treatment, and encourages service members to increase their awareness and use of these resources. It promotes the processes of building resilience; facilitating recovery; and supporting the reintegration of returning service members, veterans and their families.
- The DCoE Outreach Center provides a 24/7 call center staffed by experienced and compassionate health resource consultants to provide confidential answers, tools, tips and resources about psychological health issues and traumatic brain injury. The Outreach Center can be reached toll-free at 866-966-1020, via e-mail at email@example.com or through online chat at Real Warriors Live Chat.
- Sesame Street Workshop’s Talk, Listen, Connect helps young children (ages two to five) cope with the deployment cycle and challenges of a parent in danger. Additionally, For Military Families allows families and friends to stay in touch through messages, artwork, photos and video clips. Both Sesame Street resources also offer communication tips for parents.
See also Military One Source, which offers help with a wide variety of needs including education, relocation, parenting, and managing stress. Available by phone or online, this free service is provided by the Department of Defense for active-duty, Guard, and Reserve service members and their families. The service is completely private and confidential, with few exceptions.
Veterans Home Care is designed to provide immediate assistance to qualified veterans and their surviving spouses. By providing a personal care coordinator to assist in the application process, the program personally aids veterans and surviving spouses in assembling the information required by the VA to qualify them for their benefits.
Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.
If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing Newsletter. Sign up here.
- National Resource Directory - Connecting Wounded Warriors, Service Members, Veterans, Their Families and Caregivers with Those Who Support Them
- 7 Counseling Options for Service Members and Their Families
- Additional Resources for Servicemembers, Veterans and Their Families