Here are reports from two of Give an Hour's volunteers, who provide free counseling through GAH's program to members of military families who seek help. We are so grateful to these and their fellow volunteers who with our donors make Give an Hour's work possible.
Tiffany explains: “One lesson I learned was that mental health problems are endemic to every war particularly symptoms of PTSD. I recall talking to both soldiers and their wives about when they came home from war in the forties with 'shell shock' which is what they called PTSD then.” Tiffany says that World War II veterans back then described symptoms exactly like what she sees today in soldiers who are young enough to be their grandchildren. “They were emotionally withdrawn, volatile, unable to bond with their kids, unable to sleep. These are the same symptoms soldiers who have seen combat have today.”
Tiffany remembers listening to a Marine who had served in the Pacific and who “just wanted to talk with me before he died. He told me how he had been in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor happened and how he had enlisted right away. He described how harrowing and difficult it was when his company landed at Iwo Jima. The water was so rough that some of the men were crushed between the boats as they disembarked and drowned before they even got to shore. He remembered every detail.”
Currently it is the wives and mothers of soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan who she helps as a Give an Hour provider. “One young woman’s husband was finishing up basic training, and they were both afraid he would be deployed to Afghanistan because he was in the Infantry,” she says.
“Another of my GAH patients was a mom whose son had committed suicide after returning from war with both PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. She had a younger son whom I was able to refer to another GAH provider since it was inconvenient for him to come to see me.”
Tiffany sees the mental health problems stemming from the current conflicts as only getting worse. “You know the military gives these kids months of training before they deploy, but only a week of training when they are returning to civilian life. It’s just not enough when, after several deployments, the soldiers are facing failing marriages and financial problems with full-blown PTSD. The system makes transitioning back pretty tough, which is one reason I feel so good about being able to help as many as I can as a Give an Hour provider.”
Charles heard of Give an Hour through e-mail over three years ago and immediately signed up to offer pro bono support: “I . . . always keep time open for my Give an Hour work.” He often gets to know the military families in the community through wives of soldiers who come to him with anger management issues. “At first I see the spouse and then if all goes well, we progress to couples therapy. The adjustments post-deployment can be huge for these young couples.” Military Academy, a small military boarding school for students from sixth grade through twelfth is twenty minutes away.
Charles spends one morning a week seeing cadets for mental health and behavioral issues and is always on call for them. “A good number of these children come from military families and have issues because of moving around so much and having parents deploy more than once. My wife’s father was in the military so she gives me insights that I myself might not have about what they go through.”
Most of Charles’s clients are young people, high schoolers and college students, but he has also counseled the occasional older veteran. “I recently worked with a Vietnam veteran in his sixties. He contacted me because I had worked with his daughter in the past. It seems he was at a bank one day and the teller was giving him the runaround, and suddenly he felt an overwhelming rage. Then he began to have flashbacks. He said, 'I had no idea that I would remember half this awful stuff.'” Charles is an ardent supporter of Give an Hour. “These folks do so much for us, at the very least we should give them the help they need,” he says.