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Bruce SolomonVeteran Affairs Saint George, Utah

If Ive missed talking to any of the Veteran Service Organizations in the greater St. George area, please add me to your next meeting and give me a call at 673-4494 and let me know when Im scheduled to speak with your group. I believe the next gathering I have scheduled is the SunRiver American Legion meeting in April if they havent booted me off of the program. Be gentle with me, Nathan and Ellen. Ive made every attempt I can think of to get my less-than-pristine Guest Speaker Persona in front of any group larger than two people so that I can grind my ax and beat my chest about my mission in life, and I may have burned the last bridge. The last bridge, that is except this one.

I am a readjustment counselor at the St. George Vet Center on Dixie Drive. The mission of the Vet Center is to provide counseling to veterans who have served in a war zone and their partners, spouses, children and other loved ones so the transition from being at war is less confusing, painful and costly to the whole group.

I am also a disabled Vietnam combat veteran who lives with PTSD, has been married for 45 years, partnered in raising four children, and is a  

licensed psychotherapist. I can see clear signs of secondary PTSD in my wife and in each of my four children who came by their disability honestly: through living with me. The biggest injustice is not that I live with PTSD, the biggest injustice is that my family members have been forced to endure anxiety, emotional histrionics, sweat and tears as a part of their life with me.You need to know that there are wives, partners, children and veterans who are going through hell in your community, and possibly in your family, because of the profound effects of being involved in combat, or being an intimate of one who has been involved in a combat deployment.

Their lives are a never- ending cycle of anxiety, depression, fear, isolation and uncertainty. The vets have been traumatically conditioned to take in everything that is happening around them or risk death. They experience sensory overload in restaurants, grocery stores, Wal-Mart and Disneyland is the worst. Car backfires, dropped pallets, and twinkling Christmas tree lights tap primal responses; fireworks are the worst.

The intimates walk on eggshells, get treated like soldiers, miss family reunions, amusement parks, and have everything they do, say, or think challenged. Their vet will never attend their school concert, parent-teacher conferences, their graduations, and will be totally hostile to anyone they fear you will love more than them, especially boyfriends. There is nearly a 70 percent chance this relationship will end, the children will now be from a broken home, subject to stepfathers and stepmothers, and suicide begins to lurk in the darkness around the family members.

Are you going to step up and talk to the combat vets around you or are you going to wring your hands and say, I dont know what to do? You can count on them telling you they are Fine, Theres nothing wrong with me, and Its just going to take some time to adjust.

I said those same things and my family suffered for 40 years and finally decided that it was time to end my life because I couldnt live with what happened 45 years ago and what I had done to my family as I struggled with my guilt, regret and second-guessing the choices and actions of that 18-year-old Marine in Vietnam.

Are you going to ask that wife or partner of that combat vet to check in with the Vet Center to get support and help with the maze of dealing with someone who has PTSD? We can offer tips and comfort to make the minefield easier to negotiate, we can shed some light on what the combat vet is going through and how to handle it. We can do marital counseling and family counseling to help the children, siblings, and parents of a combat vet understand how to become part of strengthening the family and bringing that combat vet completely home.

The real questions are: Will you help me? Will you bring them to see me? If they are OK, no harm done; if they arent OK, are you willing, after you have read this, to take the risk of letting a relationship, or a person, die because you refused to act? 

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