From Jerry Kyser, Roseville, MN
Sgt E-5 Army, Vietnam-Huey Helicopter Crew Chief and Gunner;1st Inf 1968-69; 1st Avn Brigade 1969-70
Be involved with the reintegration as soon as you can. The military knows what happens to families with multiple deployments. There are many programs to help you and your loved ones. Get help quickly and do not be shy about it. We love you folks.Take it from an Old Vietnam warrior. It is not just about you, it is about you and your family even if you are single. As veterans, we want to be your back. We want to help you get the GI Bill going or make sure you can get your job back if you had one when you were deployed. If not, press on and do something to get a new one. Things are tough but you are a survivor. You are our heroes. You are all winners.
I came back to College in 1970 with undiagnosed PTSD and became stubborn, bitter and angry. I never went to the VA for 37 years for diagnosis, therapy and compensation for my combat injuries. DO NOT DO THAT, IT CAN KILL YOU. Get registered with your State and Veteran Service Officer. Find out about your earned benefits, job placement and stay away from the booze and drugs.
From Daniel Price, Minneapolis, MN
Captain, Infantry, Minnesota Army National Guard, Company Commander, served in Iraq from March 2006 to June 2007.
Suggestions that I have that I wish that I had known when I returned:
1. Seek counseling with a mental health professional immediately upon arrival home. Even if you don't think that you have any issues, it will be good for returning soldiers to talk things out with a mental health professional instead of having things carry over to home life. This destroys marriages. I know from experience.
2. Seek marriage counseling immediately as well. Being away from spouses is very difficult. Seeking a marriage counselor is a great way to open up the lines of communication. One may think that the lines are open and everything is fine, but MAKE SURE that this is the case. Once the "honeymoon" is over, things can come crashing back to reality.
3. Get enrolled in the VA system. It can be a discouraging process but take advantage of them when you can. I have enrolled in the VA but maintain civilian providers because appointments are difficult to attain at the VA, especially for emergency or urgent situations.
4. Find a hobby that feeds your adrenaline rush...and learn how to mitigate the risks. Riding motorcyles, playing paintball, skydiving are different ways. All can be dangerous, but if you do them responsibly all can feed your appetite for adrenaline.
5. Do NOT sit idle and feel sorry for yourself, especially if you are unemployed. There are organizations out there that are waiting to help veterans find jobs. Use them. That's what they get paid for.
6. Know the phone numbers for the National Suicide helpline. 1-800-273-TALK.There is a disturbing trend of OIF/OEF veterans committing suicide. Do not become a statistic. There are people out there willing to help you, who know what you are going through, and will not let you spiral out of control until you reach the point of desperation.
Posted at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2010
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Community, Education, Employment, Family & relationships, Housing, Legal, Mental Health, Other, Personal Finance, Substance Abuse
As part of our online and radio series on reintegration, We're asking veterans, their families and those who work with veterans to send us a text message with the answer to this question:
"What's the key to a soldier's successful return home?"
We'll be posting responses throughout the afternoon here. To share your experience with reintegration, text the word "advice" to 30644. Or click here.
From Jeff Dvorak, Sauk Rapids, MN
E-3 USMC Radio Operator, stationed at Al Asad, Iraq from September 16th, 2009-February 2nd, 2010 with Marine Wing Support Squadron 472
Trust your significant other. Mistrust, asking too many questions, stalking, has led to the downfall of more relationships than anything else. When you're coming home you want to think of that other person as yours, but they have developed relationships to fill the void your being gone has left and if they are being reasonable about it, just let it go. They still love you.
From Rachel Vopatek, Brainerd, MN
Sgt. in the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq from 2003-2004 and 2007-2008 (pictured below during deployment). Now out of the military after initial enlistment.
Enjoy your families and friends, but know that your experience is yours and no one can take that from you. Remember the hard times and the good times you went through on deployment and coming back home; draw strength from these experiences in the future.
If I could tell returning veterans just one thing, it would be this: bring some military discipline into your civilian life when you get home. Do PT (physical training), eat well, work hard and then relax at the end of the day knowing you gave it your all. Find your balance each day and you will find that your life is more manageable and joyful.
Posted at 2:10 PM on January 27, 2010
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Community, Education, Employment, Family & relationships, Housing, Legal, Mental Health, Other, Personal Finance, Substance Abuse
MPR News will be building and maintaining a list of resources for returning veterans and their families. If you see something missing or want to add information to an existing listing, click here.
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
"To empower leadership, service members and families by providing relevant training, services, and resources throughout the deployment cycle."
Click here for a list of contacts
**BTYR also has a comprehensive resource list here: http://www.btyr.org/Resources**
Link Vet Line
"The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a new hotline to provide comprehensive assistance and crisis intervention for veterans."
Contact: 888.LINK.VET (546.5838)
United Veterans Legislative Council of Minnesota
"A consortium of Veterans, Military, and Auxiliary Organizations to exchange information and support issues relating to entitlements for Veterans, Military Retirees, the National Guard and Military Reservists, their dependents and survivors."
Contact: Ralph Donais, 763-441-2630
Benefit Navigation and Referrals
Disabled American Veterans Dept. of Minnesota
"Providing free, professional assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services earned through military service"
Click here for chapter locations and contact information
Brain Injury Association of Minnesota
"The Brain Injury Association of Minnesota's goal is to provide answers and avenues of support for all Minnesotans living with brain injury."
Contact: 800-669-6442 or 612-378-2742
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center
"We provide inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services to veterans and active duty service members who have sustained polytrauma injuries, including traumatic brain injury."
Contact: Stacy Tepper, Admissions and Referral Officer, 612-467-3235 or 866-414-5058 ext. 3235
DCoE Outreach Center
"The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) runs a resource center that provides information and resources about psychological health, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury."
Walk-In Counseling Center
"Provides free, confidential, no appointment professional counseling."
"Education, relocation, parenting, stress - you name it - Military OneSource is here to help you with just about any need. Available by phone or online, our free service is provided by the Department of Defense for active-duty, Guard and Reserve service members and their families."
Calvary Lutheran Church
Golden Valley, MN
"Active-duty soldiers, veterans, military families--count on us to support you through prayer, correspondence and other resources geared just for you as you protect our country's freedom."
Contact: Pastor Skip Reeves, email@example.com, 763-231-2965
NAMI Vet Connection
Metro and Detroit Lakes
"Vet Connection groups are free and open to all veterans interested in learning more about coping tools or approaches to reintegration issues."
Metro contact (for men): Molly Black, 651-645-2948 x106
Metro contact (for women): Rachel, 952-818-7343
Detroit Lakes contact: Mary, 218-841-4863
"Provide individual, group and family counseling to all Veterans who served in any combat zone. Services are also available for their family members."
Duluth contact: 218-722-8654
Minneapolis contact: 763-503-2220
St. Paul contact: 651-644-4022
Troop and Family Counseling Services for National Guard and Reserves
"A free, 24/7 service for military families."
A website where, "warriors and families share their experiences in fixing their lives. Here you will find others that deal with the war after the war every day. Here you will get real help."
DCoE Outreach Center
(see listing above)
Veterans Transition Center at the University of Minnesota
"We exist to support the veterans of our country's Armed Forces and our main goal is to help student veterans smoothly make the transition from military to civilian life."
Contact: Aaron Ledebuhr, VTC@umn.edu or 612-624-2913
Veterans Upward Bound at MCTC
"Veterans can receive career, personal, and financial aid counseling, enrollment assistance, GED preparation, and one-on-one tutoring. In addition, a full-time VA benefits counselor is on staff to assist veterans in applying for educational benefits."
Contact: Kent Fritz-Smead, 612-659-6582
Veterans' Initiative Center & Research Institute
"The VICTRI is a cutting edge, state-of-the-art center built to assist Veterans and their family members to start, build and sustain successful businesses or initiatives through education, services, support and research."
Contact: Jack Scharrett, 612-353-5600, firstname.lastname@example.org
DEED Veterans Employment Services
"From individual employment counseling, to assistance in all stages of job search, to direct referrals for job openings, to job training for disabled veterans, to helping convert military training to civilian credentials, we offer a wide variety of specialized employment and training services to veterans."
Click here for employment reps by office location
"The Key to Career Success campaign connects veterans and transitioning service members with high quality career planning, training, and job search resources"
Find a career center near you.
Resource Employment Action Center
Metro and St. Cloud
"JOBS for VETERANS, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, is designed to help veterans find the job that best utilizes their skills."
Minnesota Military Foundation
"The Minnesota Military Family Foundation distributes money through grants and loans to Minnesota Military Families of deployed soldiers that need a little help."
Contact: Terry Palmer, 763-544-2255, email@example.com
Minnesota Assistance Council for VeteransDuluth, Mankato, Metro
"MACV exists to directly help veterans and their families affected by homelessness or those in danger of becoming homeless."
Dulth contact: Durbin Keeney, 218.722.8763
Mankato contact: Sue Sorenson, 507.345.8258
Metro contact: Jimmy Collier, 612.726.1327
"Source for affordable housing-related data, information and resources."
Contact: 612-522-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kids and Family
Operation: Military Kids
"Helping kids feel connected, active and supported that have been affected through recent troop deployment"
Contact: Kia Harries, email@example.com, 507-372-390 or Amber Runke, firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-624-8198
"Operation Homefront provides emergency and morale assistance for our troops, the families they leave behind, and for wounded warriors when they return home."
Project New Hope Retreats
"Provide Veterans and their families the education, training, and skills necessary to manage their lives after wartime service."
Contact: Jen Billington, 218-851-5839, email@example.com
Family Assistance Centers
"A FAC is an information source for a variety of services for the Service Member and their family before, during and following a deployment."
Click here for contact information by office location
Baker Williams Law Firm
"We have a personal mission to serve the members of our military family. Our life experience has inspired us to create this purpose. Our goal is to offer legal services to veterans, service-members, wounded warriors and their families at every stage of their lives."
Contact: (651) 773-4111 or (877) 434-VETS
Brock Hunter Law
"A veteran himself, Brock Hunter dedicates a portion of his practice to defending military veterans who find themselves in criminal court."
From Randal Lundborg, Duluth, MN
Retired Staff Sergeant, deployed as a medic with the Army Reserves from Dec 2003 to Feb 2005. Served at Abu Ghraib, Najaf, Baghdad and Fallujah
When you first get back, take life at your speed for a bit. It's ok to not want to accept every invitation. Ease yourself back into your old life. Get to know your family again. Remember, your family isn't in the military -- ask, don't order. If you have kids, ask open questions and let them ramble on and ask questions. Real listening is a skill that you haven't used in a long time.
Understand things will be different. Not bad, just different. It takes time to get back into the role of "Dad" or "Mom," don't rush it. Decompressing takes time. Ask questions, you will react differently to different things.If that response makes you wonder, ask questions, if you don't know who to ask, call 888-LINK VET (546-5838).
From B Jones, Laurel, MD
E-5 (Sergeant), Army, 98G Arabic Linguist. Served from 1999 to 2005. Stationed with the 1st Infantry Division in Wuerzburg, Germany. Deployed to Kosovo in 2002 and to Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005, served in Tikrit, Baqubah and Samarrah.
Welcome back from a deployment, possibly getting out of the military. My first tip would be to tell you to take control for/of yourself!!! The military has many different programs to help you out but they won't do anything for you if you don't take matters into your own hands.
Second, while you were gone both you and your friends/family have had unique and individual experiences. Things are going to be different whether you want them to be or not. Realize this and give yourself, your spouse, and your friends and family each time to get reacquainted. It took my wife and I months to get back to normal. She wanted to hug me and hold me every single moment we were awake and together. I just wanted to be left alone. After all, I hadn't really had much physical contact for a year. It took a great deal of communication for us to make it through that. She felt I was rejecting her and I felt she wasn't respecting my space. We are still together and now have a baby boy.
Third, it is never too early to start looking for a job if you are planning to get out of the military. Most jobs will work with you on your availability. Your military service goes a long way with most employers, use it to your advantage. It doesn't matter what job you had while you were in. Your military service will help with just about any job you apply for.
You volunteered for the military. They used you as a resource during that time. Take advantage of all the resources the military is giving you access to and use their resources to your advantage. This could be counseling, medical, resume writing, GI Bill. It is your turn to use the military how you see fit.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. You may not want to talk about things right away but plan on doing it at some point. Share your feelings, experiences, doubts, whatever with someone you trust. If you have a spouse they may really appreciate you talking to them and explaining what you are feeling and thinking.
Take pride in your service, regardless of how you feel about the war. You did your country and other countries in this world a service. There are so many people who don't have the courage to do what you did.
From Trista Matascastillo, St. Paul, MN
Served 16 years in the Navy-Marine and Army National Guard, husband returned from Iraq in 2008 and brother is currently in Iraq on his third deployment.
It is very difficult going from a life of service with a mission that every day someone depends on you to make life and death decisions to a life with civilians who are making decisions about what client to call back first, or what is the best outfit to wear to work.
In the beginning it feels like you are so much more experienced and in a lot of ways you are, but that kind of thinking will only further alienate you from others. Humility is the best possible advice I can give to help with reintegration into civilian life.
I promise in time you will see that your civilian counterparts are skilled and have a lot of experience and perspective that you may not have ever considered. And through that respect for what they do and what they have done, you will learn that you too are valued and respected. Just as you are on edge in the beginning they too are on edge and a little unsure how to treat you, and how to act around you. So, take the first step. Be patient, be nice and be humble and you will see that the transition is much easier.
From Manfred Tatzmann, Brooklyn Park
Works with veterans, has 30 years in mental health field, consults with states and national organizations on head injuries and traumatic brain injury.
Veterans need to recognize that even a short tour in a combat zone can have an effect on them. While it takes everyone some time to come back and recover, those who have seen, experienced or been directly affected by a traumatic or horrific event (using your own definition or generally accepted definition of such an event) need to be able to reconcile that it may affect their life and relationship to others after deployment.
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, no more than asking your buddy to cover your backside. The body may heal from scars and wounds readily, but scars and wounds of trauma can last much longer and are more difficult to heal.
This is very important especially if you have been close to an IED or have had one or more concussions that have left you dazed or unconscious. The military tries to provide assistance immediately post-deployment, but it is family members and friends that become aware of the stress and struggle that can occur many months later. Then is the time to trust, and seek help from and with family members, religious leaders, and mental health counselors.