Invisible Wounds

What stress does to the soul

Courage After Fire

Transitioning to civilian life can be painful too.

            “Courage After Fire” was the name of a conference I recently attended. It was about transitions, about bridging the gap between military and civilian life.

            We’re all familiar with “courage under fire,” the phrase that defines our military heroes, but today on Veterans’ Day, “courage after fire” seems a more appropriate phrase.

Today, more than 57,000 vets are homeless, tens of thousands have no jobs, and close to one third of those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or major depression.

These are problems that our society must address, and thankfully, a number of organizations and individuals are stepping up to the plate.

U.S.VETS, for example, has an innovative program called "Outside the Wire." At six Southern California community colleges, U.S.VETS staff and interns from the University of Southern California and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology reach out to veterans who may be unaware they're dealing with PTSD or who may be hesitant to seek help from the VA out of fear it could hinder their efforts to get jobs, especially in law enforcement.

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Early intervention is a very cost-effective strategy; U.S.VETS treats a student veteran for approximately $560, about a tenth of the cost of an in-house program later on when a veteran's psychological issues have become more intense.

“Outside the Wire” also counsels the families of these returned warriors -- their spouses, children, even their parents -- who grapple with the effects of their loved ones’ combat experiences. In the last year, “Outside the Wire” has served 400 vets and their families.

On this Veterans’ Day, remember that it’s also important to support those who are reaching out to help our vets.

Eric Newhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of Alcohol: Cradle to Grave and Faces of Combat: PTSD and TBI.

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