View Full Version : Lynn Marine: 'Getting help shouldn't be hard'

01-30-08, 05:36 AM
Lynn Marine: 'Getting help shouldn't be hard'

By Thor Jourgensen / The Daily Item

LYNN - After three tours in Iraq where he was wounded twice, Jim Eldridge returned home in 2006 to his family and, eventually, a job. He knew he was lucky, but he was also angry.

"I didn't have any options. Coming out of the infantry, my skills were very limited."

He relocated from California where his wife, Kasey, lived while he served in Iraq to Lynn where his father, Lon, and mother, Susan, welcomed the couple into their East Lynn home.

Eldridge hoped he could follow his father into the city Public Works Department, but there was no job available. His father and city Veterans Director Michael Sweeney steered Eldridge to the River Works where a Vietnam era veteran interviewed him and offered the Marine sergeant a job.

"With me, it worked out, but a lot of others are not so lucky," Eldridge said.

Eldridge wanted to be a soldier since the age of three. He joined English High School's Marine Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and
headed for Parris Island and boot camp after graduating. As a Marine,
he learned to do his job and the job of the man or woman standing beside him. As a Marine sergeant, the people under his command stood when he walked into a room and did their jobs without him having to tell them what to do.

He said it is hard for people who have not served in the military - not to mention fought in combat - to understand the difference between the life of disciplined obedience and unquestioning reliance on comrades that defines a combat unit and the world thousands of miles away from Baghdad and Fallujah.

He fought in Iraq and saw death and was close to it. But he also saw water service restored in Iraqi neighborhoods and Iraqi women gain the right to vote.

"It is disgusting all the work we did and then you hear people say, 'You killed innocent people.'"
He has heard too many stories, some of them firsthand, of fellow Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who could not get assistance obtaining the financial and medical benefits they are entitled to receive for their service.

Sweeney helped him fill out Veterans Administration forms and call people to get information, but he said more needs to be done for veterans by the Veterans Administration and municipal agencies.

Eldridge has heard stories about comrades who after the "welcome home" parties and the parades ended became withdrawn or flew into rages as the post-traumatic stress syndrome they suffered from went undiagnosed.

"A lot of guys just curl up and don't want to leave the house."

He said the Veterans Administration and local vets agents should give returning service people a "welcome home package" that includes information steering them to a job as well as medical help and set up a veterans "hotline" to provide mental health care and other information to vets.

"How hard is it for the city to seek out people from Lynn coming back if only to give them a job to get you back on your feet?"

He said there are fewer resources available to returning veterans than people might think. He knows fellow Marines who left the service without a job or family in their future.

"I drove them to the airport and asked them what they were going to do and they said, 'I'll work it out.'"