So my Mom (Dar) shows up at my office to bring me information about something she talked a bit about a few days ago. It’s a program called “Project New Hope” and they help Veterans and their families with a variety of things after wartime service.
I have to admit, when she first brought this up, I didn’t get it. I guess I was picturing a steely-eyed Navy Seal getting lectured by his new pencil neck civilian boss. I thought, he might not like it, but he’ll adapt to the new environment in no time… he doesn’t need a group like “Project New Hope” to help him make that change. Yep, that’s how thick I can be.
Ma quickly let me know that every Veteran has his/her own set of circumstances. She told me that 25% of all homeless are combat Veterans and the suicide rates for Veterans aged 20-24 are 4 times higher than civilians.
She told me to imagine being an 18 year old kid working at McDonalds who gets activated with his local guard unit and spends almost 2 years in Iraq. This kid is now a fulltime soldier with a real gun and real risk. Eventually this soldier gets put in a squad leader position that requires him to make life and death decision for not only himself, but for others as well (that will make you grow up pretty quick). Now at the age of 20 he’s back home and for some reason asking “would you like fries with that?” is much harder than before he left.
“OK Ma, I’m starting to get it.”
She goes on to tell me that many of the casualties of war have never signed up for duty. They are the wives, husbands, children and close family members that had to endure life while the soldier was away and then deal with the changes now that they’re home.
After Ma left I did a little googling on my own and found out that in 2005 Army researchers saw alcohol misuse rise from 13% to 21% one year after coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Also Post-deployment reassessment data showed anger and aggression issues increase from 11% to 21 and those planning to divorce went from 9% to 15%.
Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill. said “We commit a serious disservice to veterans and their families if we only focus on the veteran with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” he said. “Congress must act to improve the Defense Department’s and (Department of) Veterans Affairs’ capacity to have a family-centered approach to treating it.”
Project New Hope does just that by offering whole family retreats that are designed to give the participants the help they need at the pace they want. The retreats are completely free to the Veterans and their families and the staff is 100% volunteer. On top of that, counselors are available 24/7.
I finally get it and I hope you do too. If this is something you can get behind, please click here to learn more or send your tax deductible donation to Project New Hope, PO Box 174, Barnesville, MN 56514.
My Ma is a member of our local Lions group and they’ve teamed up with the American Legion and the VFW to host a day long fundraising event for Project New Hope. It’s March 20th in Barnesville, MN and will run from pancakes at 7am to Karaoke at 9pm. Their goal is to raise $25,000.