By Debbie Gregory.
More than two and a half million U.S. military service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the Global War on Terrorism. A large number of these men and women return home from war only to face new struggles with underemployment, unemployment, depression, identity crises, rehabilitating from war wounds, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.
While family and friends become invested in their loved one’s struggle, many Americans aren’t familiar with our Veterans’ plights. Government agencies, including the VA and state organizations, as well as private, non-profit groups have created initiatives designed to raise awareness and support for Veterans and their needs.
One of these initiatives is the University of Southern California School of Social Work’s yearly event called “All School Day.” The event is a forum that is co-hosted by students and faculty, and designed to celebrate diversity through the exchange of ideas. All School Day was a result of the turmoil of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The theme of the 2014 All School Day, which took place on February 19th , was “Duty of Care”, and focused on Veteran and military struggles. Due to the flood of Veteran students now using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, more schools should be encouraged to highlight Veterans and their struggles. There is no need to shy away from the fact that many Veterans are finding difficulty transitioning into civilian life. The more widespread the awareness, the easier time Veterans will have finding the resources they need to succeed.
Another initiative that should benefit Veterans in need is that March was named National Brain Injury Awareness month. While this awareness campaign is not exclusively for Veterans, it should inform many Americans about the types of struggles that many Veterans with brain injuries face. For example, many of the recognized symptoms of PTSD are actually survival skills that service members are trained to use in combat. Detaching one’s emotions is a coping mechanism that the brain implements when it is subjected to serious traumas, like those experienced in war zones.
Anyone interested in aiding Veterans can make a difference in the lives of the men and women who have served. Using the examples above, design your own method of raising awareness and assisting Veterans with their struggles, and implement them at work, in school, and in your community.