February 22, 2009

Vets counsel troops returning home

The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department is having Iraq war vets help counsel troops dealing with the horrors they experienced on the battlefield, officials say.

Among the 50 or so war-experienced counselors helping the returning soldiers struggling with post traumatic stress disorder is Jay White, a 37-year-old mental health specialist at the Hartford Vet Center in Connecticut who served two tours in Iraq.

White said traditional counseling services weren't providing the newly returning vets the emotional outlet they needed, The Hartford Courant reported Sunday.

We recognized that these guys were returning from Iraq and drinking heavily together because they wanted to talk about their experiences over there, White said. But all of this was happening in bars in downtown Hartford. So if they felt comfortable together, and this was where the group was already happening, why not replicate that in an environment where they were sober?

The newspaper said White scheduled group outings with veterans that included trips to baseball games, kayaking weekends and rounds of golf, encouraging veterans to bring their friends.