I’m angry this morning. I just found out Rebecca Dow’s campaign signs have been vandalized. It makes me angry that Rebecca Dow, our congresswoman, would be victim to vile and obscene words. You should know Mrs. Dow has been one of very few that has stepped up for our veterans and our Veterans’ Home. She has also given her full support to achieving the reality of a Veterans’ Outreach Center in T-or-C. I immediately could sense that she shared the same vision for our vets that I did.
And that vision is pretty straight-forward. Every single person needs a friend. Veterans in our community need a place where they can find the camaraderie, the companionship, the friendship they experienced in the military. Being a member of the armed forces created an unbreakable bond. If a fellow soldier next to me fell to the ground before the finish line, someone would extend a hand and lift him up. A soldier having difficulty completing a task on time would find help from others. Being in the military meant becoming part of an unbreakable bond. You could count on others to be your brother or sister’s keeper.
Leaving the military for civilian life meant raising a family, working full-time, being occupied and busy for 30 years. Many veterans, after living a fractured and hectic life, hit the end high and dry. They haven’t dealt with PTSD; they’ve lost track of buddies from boot camp; they no longer are part of an indelible bond.
While a resident at our Veterans’ Home, I became friends with a Navy vet carrying a very heavy burden. While serving offshore in Vietnam he and another sailor had experienced a terrible, traumatic event. The survivor’s guilt he felt had bent his shoulders and slowed his walk in a fog of depression.
But one day a surviving shipmate paid him a surprise visit. For the first time, I saw my friend smile. I saw his shoulders gain strength. The two men talked for hours, renewing the closeness, the bond they’d formed serving together in Vietnam. I watched how regaining contact with someone with a shared experience could transform a life. My friend was on his way to a new way of living with optimism and hope.
This is the vision Rebecca Dow and I have for a Veteran’s Outreach Center in T-or-C – a place where vets from our NMSVH and the T-or-C community can gather. The importance of maintaining contact between vets cannot be overstated.
September is Suicide Prevention month. It’s no secret that suicide plagues veterans more than most in our society. A community veteran’s center can offer a tremendous alternative to isolation and loneliness. It can provide a welcoming hand and listening ear to our vets who have, selflessly, given so much and sacrificed so much for us.
(Over 350 words paid)