The Guide to Coming Home

Get signed up with a Veteran Service Officer ASAP

Posted at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Education, Family & relationships, Mental Health, Substance Abuse

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.


TriCare health benefits for retired military veterans

Posted at 9:13 AM on February 22, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits

From Sharon Simpson, Walker, MN
Husband retired from the Navy as a Master Chief Machinist Mate (E-9). During his military career he served aboard five ships, was attached to Base Police in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, served as a Navy Recruiter in Duluth, and managed recruit barracks in the Great Lakes.

Please ask for information on 'TriCare' health benefits. My husband is a 20 year Navy vet. He then worked for Cass County before retiring at 65.

We were frantic trying to find money in our budget to purchase supplemental health insurance (to go with Medicare).

A friend just happened to mention TriCare. We checked into it and were able to enroll (thankfully!).

When we were filling out paper work at the nearest military base (Camp Ripley) I told the clerk that we found out about it by accident. She replied, "People tell me that. Apparently it's the best kept secret in the military!"

This 'secret' has saved us!!!


Things I wish I did when I returned

Posted at 1:45 PM on February 19, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Employment, Family & relationships, Mental Health

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.


Additional college benefits with ROTC

Posted at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Education

From Cpt. Benjamin Nicholls, Fargo ND:
Part of the 1/34th BCT Deployment to Iraq from 2005-2007 and currently assists soldiers and students interested in becoming officers in obtaining scholarships and contracting with ROTC.

Those vets interested in going back to college for their bachelor or master's degrees and interested in becoming leaders and officers in the National Guard can take advantage of a great deal of additional benefits on top of all the benefits they will already qualify for by talking to Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs. There are several programs across the state including University of Minnesota, Saint Cloud State University, University of North Dakota, Mankato State University, and North Dakota State University.

Benefits that can be expected with ROTC National Guard scholarships and benefits through the National Guard include:
- Paid tuition
- GI Bill and Kicker
- E5 Pay or greater pay for drill weekends
- $1,200/yr for books
- $350 - $500 monthly stipend
- Scholarship paying for full tuition or room and board
- Loan repayment
- Possible assessions and other bonuses


Text message insights on reintegration

Posted at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2010 (0 Comments)
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.


Money, money, money

Posted at 3:56 PM on February 8, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Personal Finance

From Ross Holtan, Minneapolis, MN
Left the army as a Specialist (E-4). Was stationed in Germany with the First Infantry Division. Deployed to both Kosovo and Iraq.

Save your money. Many of us -- especially the single soldiers -- returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with a boatload of cash.

That money will go fast if you are not careful. Finding a place to live, buying a car, starting school, vacations and even dating will deplete your savings.

Take some time to consider the big purchases; buying a new car or motorcycle may not be the best use of your funds. Think about how long it may take you to go back to work. Do you have any unsettled debt that may come back to bite if you don't take care of it now?

Many of my friends bought BMWs (we were in Germany), big trucks and motorcycles with their savings. I didn't, and I was really happy to have to money when it came time for school.


When applying for jobs, use your military experience, but don't rely on it

Posted at 3:51 PM on February 8, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Employment

From Ross Holtan, Minneapolis, MN
Left the army as a Specialist (E-4). Was stationed in Germany with the First Infantry Division. Deployed to both Kosovo and Iraq.

Finding a job right now -- anywhere -- is difficult.

As a recently returned soldier, you have a leg up on the rest of the labor force. Use it. Whether you're looking for a temporary position to hold you over, or if you're looking to jump back into your career, your personal and professional contacts will be your best help. Spread the word around that you're back. Ask your friends and family to drop your name to their bosses. This is another great opportunity to meet professionals in your field.

Call an employer and ask for an "information interview." Tell them you are a recently returned vet looking for information about their field. This gets you in the door, meeting the bosses without the pressure of interviewing for a position. If you make a good impression they will remember you when a position does open.

Using your experience to get in the door is one thing, but translating your military positions into civilian language is tough. Tell them you're a leader, responsible, motivated and work well with people. Make sure you quantify how many briefings or PowerPoints you did each week. Tell them how valuable the equipment was that you were signed for. Tell them how many people worked for you. Tell them how many hours you worked each week. They'll be impressed. Find a way to simply apply what you did in Iraq to everyday civilian work.


GI Bill benefits are slow

Posted at 3:47 PM on February 8, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Accessing benefits, Education

From Ross Holtan, Minneapolis, MN
Left the army as a Specialist (E-4). Was stationed in Germany with the First Infantry Division. Deployed to both Kosovo and Iraq.

If you're going back to school, when it comes to the VA, have patience and plan ahead. I started school again this September, but did not receive my GI Bill benefits until November. I know. Crazy.

Despite applying for the GI Bill back in June, registering for classes in July and officially certifying my enrollment in August, I attended school without benefits for almost four months.

I called the VA almost every single day, but was only able to contact a real person twice. We were disconnected once, and it took me five weeks to get back through.

Plan ahead. Save a little money just in case. The payments eventually came, but I was in pretty rough shape towards the end.


Doubt creates the problem

Posted at 3:33 PM on February 8, 2010 (0 Comments)
Filed under: Family & relationships

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.


Find balance with military discipline

Posted at 9:26 AM on February 8, 2010 (1 Comments)
Filed under: Family & relationships, Mental Health

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.

Rachel VopatekIf 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.

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