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Teaching about life altering changes of returning vets

The legislative chair of the Society of Military Widows, Nevada’s Janet Snyder, who is well-versed on local veterans issues and who travels around the country gathering information and promoting legislation that helps SMU members and veterans in general.

Recently she participated in a Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Faith- based and Neighborhood Partnerships Quarterly Conference Call. The topic was: “Journeying Together: An overview of Partnerships with Local Clergy, VA Chaplains, and Community Leaders in Caring for Our Returning Combat Veterans.”

The speaker was Chaplain Michael McCoy, the acting director, of the VA’s National Chaplain Center. The purpose of the calls is to provide information about VA programs and services that will assist in serving the needs of veterans, their families, survivors and caregivers.

Snyder reports that McCoy talked about aid and spiritual needs of returning veterans; challenges of post-deployment; psychological effects of war; pastoral interventions; brainstorming for VA Chaplains and local clergy; referring vets to the VA as a trusted link; educational outreach about PTSD, poly-trauma, spiritual wounds, suicide prevention, VA health care, vet centers and military sexual trauma.

“Part of the workshop is to teach civilian clergy about the definitions of military acronyms,” Snyder says. “Teaching about the life altering changes of returning vets is most important. (McCoy) told a story about a returning chaplain who had been deployed in Afghanistan, and felt that he was still on watch. He saw a man in one of the pews who had a bulge in his pocket, and kept his eyes on the man and that bulge. At one part of the service, he jumped down and tackled the man, who showed him that he had a baby bottle in his pocket for his child who was in the nursery.”

Snyder learned that half of returning vets are Reserve or National Guard and that many struggle to cope with the scars of battle.

“They are not the people they were. It’s the same with active duty. There are upsetting feelings, lack of safety, when triggered. Also financial hardships: jobs promised may be gone.”

Snyder learned from the call that clergy can be a connection for locating resources. Societal attitudes are also a factor. Loss of military structure; psychological and emotional issues; insomnia; vigilance; unprovoked anger; chronic unexplained pain; traumatic brain injury; spiritual reaction to war; dealing with guilt and shame; compulsive behavior; crime; despair; social withdrawal; feeling threatened; lapses in memory; feeling distracted; confusion about God; altered sense of meaning of life; grief and loss; ineffectiveness; feel permanently damaged.

She said that core ethical beliefs have been challenged.

Snyder was told and believes that spirituality is the essence of all humanity with religion paving the way. McCoy states that there is a capacity in all people for love, peace, hope, compassion, which transcends culture that can lead to searching for meaning about inner peace.

McCoy pointed out that veteran or not, “Everybody needs help sometimes. Keep the welcome mat open.”

The Society of Military Widows is open to all military widows. Deceased spouses need not have to have passed away in combat for widows to be eligible to join. For more information, contact Snyder at groundhog71@gmail.com.

NEVADA VETERANS DEPARTMENT

The Office of the Governor and the Nevada Department of Veterans Services will host two veterans legislative meetings in preparation for the Nevada 78th Legislature. Carson City reports very good response thus far, and there is still space left for participants to attend.

On Jan. 22, the first gathering will be held at the Las Vegas City Hall, followed by a meeting in Reno on Jan. 23, at Reno City Hall. Veterans and veterans advocates are invited to attend the summits that will attempt to unveil various veterans initiatives to be pursued during the legislative session, in addition to generating awareness for NDVS state wide veteran efforts through 2015.

The Las Vegas City Hall is located at 495 S. Main St. The Reno City Hall is located at 1 E. 1st St. For more information, email

pio.ndvs@veterans.nv.gov.

STAYING ON DUTY

Pahrump families who have members serving in Iraq, or on their way to Iraq, might see them staying on in that nation longer than initially expected. The top U.S. commander overseeing the military mission in that country said a “minimum of three years” will be required until the Iraqis are capable of taking back and securing their country from Islamic extremists.

The Military Times reports that Army Lt. Gen. James Terry said hundreds of additional U.S. troops will flow into Iraq over the next several weeks to begin training Iraqi soldiers in basic combat skills. He said long-term U.S. support will be needed before the Iraqis’ can begin to mount decisive attacks and retake lost ground.

The U.S.-led training mission is not likely to begin for several months, according to an unnamed military official who spoke to the Military Times. President Obama in November authorized an expanded mission raising total U.S. force levels in Iraq to as many as 3,100 troops and setting up four training sites where Americans and other partner nations will provide military training.

But no additional U.S. troops have received deployment orders yet, in part because Congress only recently approved funding for the mission in a massive annual defense bill on Dec. 12. In late December, troop levels remained at about 1,700. Terry said four months of U.S. airstrikes on the militants, often referred to as ISIL, are starting to turn the tide in favor of the Iraqi government by degrading the enemy’s ability on the battlefield to communicate and resupply.

The Iraqis have urged Americans to provide additional weaponry. But that will not help unless the Iraq develops better logistics and maintenance capabilities, Terry concluded.

Army veteran, journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart recipient of the Vietnam War, and the host of the “Veterans Reporter Radio Show” each Thursday night on KLAV-AM, 1230 on the dial. It’s also streamed live at www.klav1230am.com.

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