Stories Offer a Glimpse into Life Post Injury

Retired CW3 James Hume talks about life with PTSD.

Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

This morning, I had the honor of listening to three people tell their personal story. While each story was unique, heartfelt and powerful—they all showed the full impact of a life with a severe injury, and the impact on the Family. I was in awe as retired Chief Warrant Officer James Hume, Army spouse Gina Hill and retired Sergeant Scott Stephenson shared their stories at the Army Wounded Warrior Program’s (AW2) Symposium.

As I watched James speak, he looked like corporate America—dark suit, clean cut, distinguished. Actually, he looked a lot like actor Bill Pullman who played the president in Will Smith’s Independence Day. Watching him, it was hard to connect what he was saying to his calm, poised demeanor. James suffers from PTSD and mild TBI. Although he received treatment at the combat stress unit in Balad, Iraq, cognitive behavior training at Walter Reed, and coping skills therapy through the Veterans Administration, it wasn’t until he returned home that it all really hit him.

“I returned home, my Family and I were hit hard with the symptoms of PTSD. My condition got worse in my new environment and over the following six months my situation deteriorated to a crisis mode. As a result, I was admitted to the Dallas VA for two weeks to stabilize my condition with medications. About three months later, I was admitted to a seven week inpatient PTSD program at the Waco, Texas VA. It was there, for once, I finally received what I call a well rounded education on PTSD. I was able to process my traumas, recognize triggers, and attempt to alter my behavior. This awareness does not cure PTSD but is intended to improve the quality of life for the Veteran and that also translates to the Family. My wife Diana and I feel awareness, education, and treatment should be extended to the Family members for they are an integral part of the Family dynamics and in many cases Family is all you have left.”

A Marine and Army reservist for nearly 30 years, James served in the Persian Gulf War and volunteered to deploy to Iraq with an ordinance unit. In Iraq he went on missions for route clearance and foot patrols throughout the villages which exposed him to multiple IEDs, mortar and rocket fire and resulted in life-altering injuries.

“This is not the person I use to be. I even avoid people that knew me before so they do not know me now. I try to protect a reputation that is now masked behind incompetence. As a reserve Soldier, this impacted not only my military career but also my civilian career and almost cost me my Family. I have worked hard with coping mechanisms but they also have limits. I can’t respectfully articulate what it is like to live with PTSD. The closest I can come is to imagine your mind is no longer your mind, your life is no longer your life, your dreams are no longer your dreams, you’re not the husband your wife deserves, you’re not the father your children deserve, you’re not the friend your friends deserve, you’re not a contributor to society but rather you view yourself as a burden. To simplify, imagine a life with a broken spirit. This may seem extreme to a normal person but it is normal for a person with PTSD.”

SGT Allen Hill’s wife Gina added that, “While the majority of Allen’s physical, or visible, wounds have healed, our Family still struggles daily with the psychological wounds. Often times, these are called the invisible wounds, but I have a hard time calling them that, for they are very visible to anyone who spends any amount of time with him.”

Gina then spoke about the impact of her husband’s TBI and PTSD on their Family. “These psychological wounds greatly affect not only the Soldier, but the entire Family. My husband’s triggers are now triggers for myself as well as our children. In the rare times we are away from my husband, we are constantly on high alert for his triggers. It is next to impossible for us to turn that off. Our kids have had to become caregiver’s for their dad instead of just being kids. They are well rehearsed in PTSD, calling 911, and explaining why their dad has a service dog, why he isn’t at many of their events, and why he sometimes acts really weird. They also have to understand that plans are never set in stone and are always contingent on their dad’s current mental state.”

She added that, “The struggles I face specifically as a spouse of a warrior suffering with PTSD are many as well. It is difficult watching the person you love fighting to get back to the person they were before war because they do remember what they used to be like, they just can’t figure out how to get back to that person. We have worked very hard to focus on the best he can be now, not who he was. Every part of him is different and when I say every, I mean every. With that being said, it is extremely difficult being married to someone who is completely different than when you married him. There are times that I see glimpses of the man I married, but they are few and far between.”

Her husband commented, “I wish I could get back to the old me for my Family’s sake, my wife’s sake. I know they long for the person I used to be.”

The life-long challenges retired SGT Scott Stephenson talked about were more physical. As a SAW gunner, he experienced third and fourth degree burns over 66 percent of his body and the amputation of his left foot as a result of an IED explosion. “I was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio where I received the best possible care and treatment. My treatment has been a long, hard road, and is still ongoing. Trying to describe living with burns is tough, and the best explanation I can come up with is, it’s like living with most of your body wrapped in air-tight saran wrap. I can’t feel the breeze on my skin.”

With all their challenges, each Family continues to serve and give back through nonprofits they’ve started, those they volunteer with, and through the stories they share so that other wounded Soldiers, Veterans, and Families know they are not alone.

AW2 Spouse Writes to Cope, Heal

By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom

AW2 Family Janis and Norris Galatas at home in Mississippi.

AW2 Family, Janis and Norris Galatas, at home in Mississippi.

AW2 Spouse Janis Galatas wrote a book, A Soldier’s Courage, about her husband Norris and the struggles they have gone through. I was able to catch up with her recently to ask her how the process of writing about her feelings and challenges has helped her and her husband and how she hopes others will use writing as an outlet during difficult times.

How did you start writing?

I must have inherited the writer’s flair from my mom. Mom wrote a moving poem about her brave hero brother who died in WWII on the “Indy Maru.” She also wrote a little book for her nieces and nephews connecting them with their Family history. My Mom and I are also great writers of letters.

How did writing down your experiences after your husband’s injury make you feel?

At first it was just documentation, but later on, as the wait got longer, staff moved to other jobs, or surgeons moved on to other hospitals, it became very cathartic. I was writing it all down as it happened to us at Walter Reed, and my pals in Georgia and California were posting it on their websites over the Internet. From April 2005 through the horrible aftermath of surgery #17 in August of 2006, it all went global. We went through some bad times at Walter Reed. But things eventually did get better. I realized I would have exploded on somebody if I hadn’t had the “blog” to vent and to have the support of “prayer warriors”—people from all over the world…literally—praying for us. Without my buddies on the Internet, I would have been totally alone at Walter Reed with no support group. Blogging is therapeutic. It was all in the book and people tell me they had no clue how badly our wounded were getting treated.

When did you decide to write a book and why?

While Norris lay in a coma at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, I remembered advice from a friend of Norris’s who had to fight with the Army and the VA for every percentage of his disability benefit. He said to put down everything, so I was documenting Norris’s care, his medications, and his procedures. When Norris awakened nine days later, he was disoriented, deep into a drug haze, and he couldn’t even tell the doctors what hospital he was in. So, I began a daily journal to keep up with his surgeries, procedures, and adventures in the hospital so he could read them later on. After he became mobile his adventures grew. During the first 90 days I stayed with him, it was mostly documentation, but after four years of making Walter Reed his home, the book was born. He met so many wonderful supporters and we have become firm friends with so many all over the globe. I wanted to let all the Families know where to go for help and where to get stuff for their Soldiers without having to spend their own money. People need to know this. It is also a healing experience for our veterans who have read it.

How has writing the book helped you and your Family?

Everyone is happy to read it and loves it, but with sales so slow, writing, and publishing the book was more a labor of love than anything else. I am still in the hole financially and it has been rough on us. I’m just glad families have benefitted from all the information I put in. People who were not close to us and didn’t know how severe Norris’s injuries were, after reading the book are all shocked at just how wonderful he looks but how almost dead he was. Especially the medics who worked on him that day, they thought he was a “goner.”

What are your hopes for your book?

Of course I would love to make a little money for my two passions—horses and Soldiers. I have rescued horses and adopted Soldiers. But if I never make a dime in royalties, I just wish military families could know it is out there. There is just so much information about how the Army can better work for you or even things you can do from the civilian side to benefit your wounded warrior. There are some things that are going to happen and one must learn how to cope with stuff and not let it ruin a marriage and destroy the kids. PTSD and TBI are difficult to diagnose and so many go untreated until they have lost everything. My book tells how our wounded can learn to “work the system” and lets families know how to recognize PTSD and even how to deal with TBI. Norris was at WRAMC for one and a half years before his “mild” TBI showed up, and it took until just last Christmas for me to realize he was suffering from PTSD and withdrawing from public places and events. We are working through it and we are going to be fine, but it is not easy to watch someone you love go through the emotional withdrawal as well as suffer the physical pain.

How do you suggest AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families start writing as an outlet for what they are going through?

Just grab a notebook and start keeping a daily journal. Write down every appointment, every flashback, and every hurdle. As you write, go ahead and keep track of who does what and to whom you have to report. Go ahead and vent and get it all out of your system. Later on, should you publish, you can edit. One of the things my Soldiers said they missed was being able to talk with other Soldiers. Go to meet with other troops in homes, camp houses, VA facilities and even clubs if necessary…but get together with other troops. Talk about it. Same for spouses and kids…meet with other families and kids. Find out how they coped.

Seek Help, Take Care of Yourselves

By COL Jim Rice, AW2 Director

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and was created to increase awareness about behavioral health and reduce stigma. As is true in the civilian sector, the Army also has a stigma associated with behavioral health. Stigma prevents many Soldiers, Veterans, and Families from seeking help. There are many resources to reach to for professional assistance, here are a few examples:

Families and caregivers need support as well to avoid compassion fatigue. In order to help others, take care of yourselves. For some helpful tips found on the Real Warriors website to help build resilience, see below:

  • Focus on the positive impact of what you are doing
  • Talk to your colleagues/Family for support
  • Set boundaries for yourself
  • Stay physically fit
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others
  • Be patient with yourself
  • Find tools for resilience

AW2 Weekly Digest April 12-23

  • AW2 Veterans Juan Arredondo, Bryan Hinojosa, Brian Neuman, and Michael Schlitz and AW2 Soldiers SGT Robert Brown and MAJ David Underwood, featured in Army News, encouraged paratroopers to help stop Soldier suicides.
  • AW2 Soldier SPC Charles Berninghausen was featured in a 9 NEWS article about the assistance he received from AW2 and Freedom Service Dogs.
  • AW2 Veterans Heath Calhoun and Melissa Stockwell, featured on DCmilitary.com, were special guests at a showing of ‘‘Warrior Champions, From Baghdad to Beijing,” at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
  • AW2 Veteran Heath Calhoun, featured on Whowon.com, unveiled the official race logo on the pace car, took some laps, and participated in media interviews for the The Heath Calhoun 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race.  He is also featured in a Defense News article Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates hosting the Paralympic Team at the Pentagon.
  • BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander, was featured in Defense News discussing Warrior Games and in the Fort Hood Sentinel discussing Ride 2 Recovery.
  • AW2 Soldier SSG Leon Cooper, featured on DCmilitary.com, helped their fellow warriors and others evacuate the building and prevented anyone from being injured during a fire at Walter Reed.
  • AW2 Soldier MAJ Tammy Duckworth, featured in Lahontan Daily News, shared a powerful message about her personal quest for success as a Veterans advocate at the third annual Nevada Women Veterans Summit. She was also featured in DOD “Wounded Warrior Diaries.”
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Andrew Eads, featured on KMEGTV14, was offered an all-expenses-paid hunting trip from a group of Nebraskans.
  • AW2 Veteran Nicholas Ebbinghaus was featured in Building Strong ® in an article about AW2 Advocate Joyce Garrett providing career assistance and his new career opportunity.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Derrick Ford and his Family, featured on DCmilitary.com, are learning to adjust to a ‘new normal’ off Walter Reed.
  • AW2 Veteran Steve Holloway was featured in WPTV for receiving a specially adapted home from Homes for Our Troops.
  • AW2 Veteran Nathan Hunt was featured on the Pentagon Channel on April 12 in a story about wounded warriors participating in a Ride 2 Recovery event. He is also slated to receive a specially adapted house according to PR Newswire.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT John Hyland, featured on Motorsport.com, been selected to sing the national anthem for Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on May 30.
  • AW2 Veteran Matthew Lammers was featured in an Action 3 News and KTRK article for receiving a specially adapted home from the HelpingaHero.org Home Program.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Daniel Lopez, featured in Peninsula Warrior and WAVY-TV 10, will participate in the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Soldier SPC Brendan Maracco featured in 1010 WINS, the Staten Island Advance, and the New York Daily News, will receive a specially adapted home from his community.
  • AW2 Veteran Ryan Newell, featured in Army Times, will receive a specially adapted house from Homes for Our Troops.
  • AW2 Soldier SFC Josh Olson, featured in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, provided expert instruction to wounded warriors to help them prepare for the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Soldier SPC Ryan Price and his spouse Terry, featured in San Diego News, received a wedding to remember from his community.
  • AW2 Veteran Edwin Salau, featured in the Jacksonville Daily News, participated in a weekend in New York City for intensive training and mentorship on making a fresh career start in the civilian world.
  • AW2 Veteran Craig C. Smith, featured in Defense News, is training for next month’s inaugural Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Soldier SPC Branden Stackenwalt, featured in the Rapid City Journal, will receive a specially adapted home as part of Operation Opening Doors.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Matt Williams was featured in Medical Device Daily in an article about controversial treatment for TBI and PTSD.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Confabulation

By Sharon E. Brady, LCSW, AW2 Advocate

Yep, it’s a real word. Actually, confabulation is a term used to describe a phenomenon experienced by some people with a brain injury. More specifically, confabulation is defined as, “The unconscious filling of gaps in one’s memory by fabrications that one accepts as facts.”

A memory of an event or situation is like a jigsaw puzzle. It is made up of many pieces of information, that when fitted together, create a clear picture of what occurred. Individuals who have difficulty paying attention or encoding information do not have all the pieces for the puzzle, resulting in an incomplete picture or memory. The brain, recognizing that the picture is incomplete, searches it’s memory banks for other pieces of information that look like they would fit and inserts these pieces into the puzzle. A cursory look would lead one to believe the puzzle was whole and therefore the information related by the individual is factual. However, a more careful look would reveal that some pieces may seem to fit, but are really from a different puzzle.

When communicating with a wounded warrior with a traumatic brain injury, keep in mind that confabulation may be occurring. It is most helpful that Advocates, Family members, and caregivers gently assist the individual in finding the correct puzzle pieces.

Trading My ACUs for a Suit and Tie (Part II)

By AW2 Veteran Mark Tippett

Editor’s Note: Read Mark Tippett’s blog from yesterday, “My Last Day in the Army.”

Now I had to find other employment outside of the Army, and that scared the hell out of me. I kept wondering how I was going to make it work when I had memory issues and a migraine problem. This was scary but I knew I would get through, as tons of people before me have and tons after also will. That didn’t stop me from losing a lot of sleep and probably talking my wife’s ear off about my worries. Everyone kept telling me it would be okay and I’ll do fine, I just wanted to get to the point where I had control over everything again. We spend so much time in the Army having everything clear cut, but this was far from it. I was leaving what I loved to do, the people I knew and trading in my ACUs for a suit and tie…

After going through numerous interviews, I landed a job with IDEXX Laboratories as a Diagnostic Sales Consultant. My new boss, Jason Hunsinger took a chance on me giving me this job because of my service and willingness to learn. He later told me that he had a brother in the Air Force and that he respected all of those in uniform. Essentially I was part of the sales force for a company that was the Gold Standard for veterinary laboratory equipment. Let’s face the facts here: I didn’t know jack about this industry. All I knew is what the Army had instilled in me and that was all of the Army Values. I soon learned that was all I needed to find success.

When I started the training cycle with this company, they knew that I was a Soldier. My first real experience blew me away; one of my trainers came over and introduced himself to me telling me that he was a former Armor Officer and had served five years. He asked about my combat experience and offered to help me adjust to this new career and, what’s more, offered me the support of another combat Veteran. Sometimes we lose sight of how many of us are out there.

After completing their training cycle (which was designed by former Soldiers) and sort of understanding what I was doing, it was off into the field. I had two great supervisors. They allowed me the flexibility to take charge but to also assist where needed. I was open with my boss about my disability. I was terrified to talk to him about it at first, but then I realized that in order for me to be successful, he needed to know how to help me when I needed it. I’m not going to sugarcoat it; it is hard to tell someone about your injuries, even harder admitting that you have a problem. Once I told him, it felt like I took a 200 pound weight fell off of my shoulders. No one can help you if they don’t know the issue. I’m not saying everyone should go out and tell their boss everything that is wrong, but if it can impact your work in a negative light, it’s good to make them aware.

First things first, I received my compensation plan (mission), constructed a plan for its execution, put my plan in motion, completed the plan then refined it. Does this look familiar? It wasn’t until a few months later that I realized I was using Army Troop Leading Procedures to execute my compensation plan and you know what? It was working! It wasn’t instantaneous, but it worked. I had to constantly work to refine what I was doing and adapt to the changing economy but I was doing okay.

Under the tutelage of my management and my hard work, I quickly and effectively collected the top spot in our region for sales, going over our sales goal of 125% for three consecutive quarters. Let me be brutally honest — I am not a good sales person, and I never will be. The traits I do possess are loyalty, respect, timeliness, courtesy, integrity and honor, and I demonstrate them with all of my clients. Sounds a lot like our Army values, doesn’t it? That’s because those Army values are what I applied to be successful.

After a year with IDEXX Laboratories my AW2 Advocate Bill Years approached me with a possible job opportunity. As much as I loved my time with IDEXX and the people I worked with, I wanted to get back into a position in which I would be helping our Armed Forces. Bill introduced me to Mr. Howard Kirsner who works at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard for Public Executive Office Aircraft Carriers. After meeting with Mr. Kirsner, I knew that the position he was offering was a perfect fit for me. Mr. Kirsner is a retired Master Chief who works to push his staff to be the best they can, and that’s the type of person I love to be around. Howard and Bill worked arduously to get me into my current position, and I can’t begin to thank them enough.

What I am trying to bring across to any wounded warrior and their Family is that we have a set of tools instilled in us from our time in the Army. This set of tools will make us successful in any position you have the desire to try. Someone once said, “When one door closes, another one opens,” and this is true for all of us. We’ve all endured much worse things than a new career change and we’ve come through that to be here today. As an old friend of mine used to always say “if it wasn’t hard, it probably wasn’t worth doing.”

Participate in DCoE’s Webinar on Sports, the Military, and Recurrent Concussion

By Dr. Lolita O’Donnell, Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

For many Americans, sports players and servicemembers are two of this nation’s most iconic images. On Thursday, March 25, from 1-3 p.m. EST, these two topics will be brought together during the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury’s (TBI) webinar “Sports, the Military and Recurrent Concussion.”

An overview of the current state of sports-related concussions including emerging science of recurrent concussion will be discussed, along with collaborations between the sports and military communities to change the clinical guidelines and culture surrounding these injuries. Speakers will include CDR Scott Pyne, Navy Sports Medicine Leader from the Office of the Medical Inspector General and COL Michael S. Jaffee, National Director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

All servicemembers, Family members, government employees, health care providers, subject matter experts, and anyone interested in this topic are encouraged to join.

To register for this event or for more information please email: DCoE.MonthlyWebinar@tma.osd.mil.

AW2 Soldier Takes Command

CPT Ray O'Donnell speaks during the change in command ceremony.

CPT Ray O'Donnell speaks during the change in command ceremony.

Recently, AW2 Soldier CPT Ray O’Donnell took command of Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 25th Infantry Division. HHC 2/25 SBCT is a company that makes up the brigade staff and the Soldiers that support the staff. O’Donnell was severely injured in western Afghanistan when he was ejected from a Humvee that fell into a gulch and crashed into trees in 2007. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and severe damage to his face, femur, hip, nerves, pelvis, and spinal cord. He still has severe paralysis in his lower left leg and wears a prosthetic-like brace that allows him to run. I was able to track down O’Donnell while he was in training at Fort Irwin, CA.

What does it mean to you to be an AW2 Soldier?

I view myself as a Soldier just like the Soldiers to my left and right.

The 25th Infantry Division has a storied U.S. Army history and has rightfully earned its nickname, “Tropic Lightning.” What does it mean to you to be taking command of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of such a storied Infantry Division?

I am humbled to have been entrusted with the awesome responsibility of command.

Of the many movies that have depicted the 25th Infantry Division in some way, which is your favorite?

“From Here to Eternity” is a neat look at soldiering in Hawaii in the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many of the buildings in that movie still stand today in Schofield Barracks.

What advice do you have for other AW2 Soldiers who want to continue with their service in the Army?

If you want to stay in the Army, make your intentions clear with your PEBLO and case manager and educate yourself through your AW2 Advocate about COAD/COAR. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. The Army can find ways to employ you if you want to continue serving. Maintain expectation management because you may not be able to do the same job you had before you were injured, but there are jobs where you can contribute if you are flexible and want to serve. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I’ve read articles about your participation in triathlons. Can you tell me about why you compete?

I spent 28 months in recovery and had to learn to walk again. I wanted to prove to myself that I could enjoy the same activities as I did before and also continue to serve and contribute in the Army. I was in a race against myself. The biathlon and triathlon were measuring tools for me and showed that I could continue to wear the uniform.

Did the training and competing in these events help prepare you for transitioning back to active duty in the Army?

The training was one in the same. The physical therapists at Tripler Army Medical Center helped me prepare for these events—which was also getting my body ready for my return to duty.

Is there anything else you would like to share with AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, or their Families?

If there’s a will, there’s a way. Always get a second opinion on everything and don’t let anyone just tell you “no.”

Continued Healing and Recovery from Brain Injuries

By COL Jim Rice, AW2 Director

DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign.

DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign.

There are some things that will require AW2’s continued support and steadfast resolve—such as the Army’s commitment to provide the finest healthcare to our AW2 Soldiers and Veterans with brain injuries. This year, as we recognize National Brain Injury Awareness Month, we again recognize that many of our men and women in uniform continue to make sacrifices that are as varied, as they are commendable. With those sacrifices, however, come some inescapable realities. Among them, are the ever present possibilities of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Throughout the medical arena, great strides are being made toward improving the care and support of our Army’s wounded warriors. Military Treatment Facilities and Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Centers continue to lead the way in researching, diagnosing, and facilitating mechanisms that help identify and treat Soldiers with TBI. The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury is working to establish best practices and quality standards for the treatment of psychological health and TBI and promote the resilience, recovery, and reintegration of warriors and their Families. In addition, DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign. This around the clock commitment to provide specialized care and treatment to those who struggle with what may well require long-term medical care, is matched only by the fervor in which sound answers and treatment are pursued.

In a world of uncertainty, we can still hope for continued healing and recovery from brain injuries that have become synonymous with our current conflicts. Whether TBI conditions are diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe, AW2 Soldiers suffering from traumatic events and injuries can find solace in knowing that the horizon is brighter because of the Army’s commitment to support wounded warriors and their Families for as long as it takes.

Give an Hour Provides Free Counseling

By Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., Founder & President of Give an Hour

Give an Hour is a national nonprofit organization delivering free mental health counseling services to active duty service members, members of our National Guard and Reserve forces, and Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have separated or retired from any branch of military service.  In addition to these military personnel and their spouses and children, Give an Hour offers services to parents, siblings, and unmarried partners.  Through our network of nearly 5,000 providers nationwide, we aim to provide easy access to skilled professionals offering a wide range of services including:

  • individual, marital, and family therapy
  • substance abuse counseling
  • treatment for post-traumatic stress
  • counseling for individuals with traumatic brain injuries

Returning combat Veterans suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress are not routinely seeking the mental health treatment they need.  Many fear that seeking mental health services will jeopardize their career or standing.  Given the military culture’s emphasis on confidence, strength, and bravery, others are reluctant to expose their vulnerabilities to counselors who are often military personnel themselves.  By providing free and confidential services that are separate from the military establishment, we offer an essential option for men and women who might otherwise fail to seek or receive appropriate services.

AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members in need of services can visit www.giveanhour.org and use a zip-code finder to locate a provider in his or her area.  Give an Hour is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

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