When vet­er­ans come home, it’s time for us to take care of them

The Olympian - - Local - BY DR. RACHEL WOOD Con­tribut­ing writer

Tak­ing care of the peo­ple who have served in the armed forces is some­thing we all want to do well. After all, serv­ing in the mil­i­tary takes a unique kind of strength and brav­ery. It takes a high level of sac­ri­fice that most of us aren’t will­ing to make.

When our vets get home, they have to in­te­grate back into their civil­ian lives. The tran­si­tion can be bru­tal, and the path back into civil­ian life may be rid­dled with health is­sues that are com­mon for vet­er­ans. Ac­cord­ing to med­i­cal re­search, vet­er­ans ex­pe­ri­ence a wide va­ri­ety of men­tal-health dis­or­ders, sub­stance use dis­or­ders, post-trau­matic stress, and trau­matic brain in­juries at dis­pro­por­tion­ate rates com­pared to civil­ians.

In fact 18 to 22 Amer­i­can vets com­mit sui­cide daily, and vet­er­ans ages 18-44 are most at risk. A 2010 Live Sci­ence ar­ti­cle iden­ti­fied sev­eral com­mon health is­sues that face our vet­er­ans. These in­cluded:

Mus­cu­loskele­tal in­juries and pain

Men­tal health is­sues, such as PTSD and de­pres­sion Chem­i­cal ex­po­sure In­fec­tious dis­ease Noise and vi­bra­tion ex­po­sure

And trau­matic brain in­jury.

It’s hard to know how to help. We know that vet­er­ans face not only a wide va­ri­ety of health is­sues, but that these can lead to other prob­lems. But there are ways that we can sup­port our vet­er­ans. Sup­port lo­cal re­sources. Thurston County has a Vet­er­ans Re­source Guide (https:// bit.ly/2Pd8DJq), and the Vet­er­ans Hub in Lacey (https://www.laceyvet­er­an­shub. ) of­fers hands-on sup­port to lo­cal vets. Vol­un­teer to get in­volved.

The Vet­er­ans Hub is at 4232 Sixth Ave. SE, Suite 202, in Lacey. They are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon­days through Fri­days, and can be reached at 360456-3850. The Hub helps con­nect vets with a wide va­ri­ety of re­sources, in­clud­ing vet­er­ans’ ben­e­fits, coun­sel­ing, hous­ing, fi­nan­cial

as­sis­tance, em­ploy­ment, for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, nu­tri­tion classes, health care and le­gal ser­vices.

Here are a few more sug­ges­tions: Of­fer a vet­eran a ride.

It can be dif­fi­cult for a dis­abled vet­eran to get to doc­tor ap­point­ments, es­pe­cially if they live re­motely. Drive A Van is a vol­un­teer net­work ad­min­is­tered by the Dis­abled Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans Spon­sor a com­pan­ion dog for a vet­eran with PTSD. Pup­pies be­hind Bars is a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that trains prison in­mates to raise ser­vice dogs for

wounded war vets. Do­nate fre­quent flier miles to wounded vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies. There are sev­eral char­i­ties that col­lect miles to bring fam­i­lies to­gether to get vets to treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties and help their fam­i­lies. Send a thank you let­ter. Op­er­a­tion Grat­i­tude will send thank you let­ters and care pack­ages to vets and first re­spon­ders. Lis­ten, learn and

share. The Vet­er­ans His­tory Project — part of the Li­brary of Congress — has been col­lect­ing sto­ries from vet­er­ans of all ages and from all walks of life.

Lis­ten to their sto­ries. Vol­un­teer to help build

a home. Both Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity and Build­ing Homes for He­roes pro­vide homes for wounded or ill vets.

What­ever you’re do­ing for Vet­er­ans Day this year, be sure to take the time to think of these brave peo­ple, and do your part to show your thanks.

Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health of­fi­cer for Thurston and Lewis coun­ties, at 360-867-2501, woodr@co.thurston.wa.us, or @ThurstonHealth on Twit­ter.

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