View Full Version : Caring for our wounded warriors

01-20-09, 05:57 AM
Caring for our wounded warriors
By BOB AUDETTE, Reformer Staff

Monday, January 19

BRATTLEBORO -- A local program to help veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan deal with post traumatic stress disorder may soon be rolled out in Veterans Administration hospitals around the country.

The Warrior Project is a community-based support program to help returning veterans and their families, said Anne Black, who with Penelope Simpson, is designing the model they hope will help war veterans confront their emotions and reintegrate back into society.

If all goes as planned, the program will be adopted by professionals and laypeople who are helping veterans in transition from the combat zone back into civilian life.

"Ultimately we want to do trainings for families and volunteers so they know how to help."

Black, who holds a doctorate in thanatology and community psychology, and Simpson, a licensed clinical mental health counselor, will be making a trip to the White River Junction Veterans Administration Medical Center, home of the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to train faculty and staff on the program.

The Art of a Warrior's Journey is a comprehensive training and curriculum designed for health care professionals in V.A. hospitals, said Black. The program is also designed to train other veterans, mental health counselors and volunteers.

The program uses calming mind-body techniques, self expression and movement, drawing, writing and guided imagery.

Through the PTSD center, Black and Simpson want to find 12 Vietnam veterans who are willing to be mentors to soldiers and Marines returning from duty in the Middle East.

Soldiers and Marines are not getting the help they need from the government that has sent them into war, said Black, and are being sent back into combat without enough time to "decompress" and explore the emotions they carry with them as a result of their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"As the daughter of a Korean vet and the ex-wife of a Vietnam vet, I have experienced the traumatic effects war has on loved ones and family life. My ex-husband said I was too pure to hear what went on in 'Nam and would not talk about it. So he kept himself well-numbed during the day and screamed and sweated at night," wrote Simpson in an e-mail to the Reformer. "I think it is critical, and not too late, that we take responsibility to fully welcome home our older, wiser warriors. They have made sacrifices to protect us and it is our responsibility to serve and protect them. They also have a very critical place in our culture as 'Mentor Warriors' for soldiers returning home from current wars."

Because the government has been slow to react to the problems of PTSD, it's up to the community to carry on the work, said Black.

"We as communities need to be doing something concrete," said Black.

Simpson and Black have been training medical professionals around the region on their techniques for helping people confront PTSD of all kinds. They hope the program can be adapted to help soldiers and Marines returning from battle.

Black is a conscientious objector who comes from a pacifist family. Most of the work she has done in the past has been in schools, helping students deal with traumatic situations in their lives. Those experiences encouraged her to look at how PTSD affects others.

"I was curious and wanting to understand the way PTSD impacts our veterans," she said. "We had a sincere desire to really understand veterans."

She received training from Edward Tick, whose Soldier's Heart project promotes and guides community-based efforts to heal the effects of war based on strategies presented in his book "War and the Soul." The pair has also benefited greatly from training they received from the Center for Health and Learning in Brattleboro.

To help pay for the Warrior Project, Black and Simpson received a grant from the Society for Arts in Health Care and Johnson & Johnson to help develop the program.

On Feb. 24, Black and Simpson are hosting a community awareness meeting at the Carl M. Dessaint Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Black Mountain Road, starting at 7 p.m.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.