SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

November 12, 2012

Letter: Don't be afraid to reach out to veterans

To the editor:

As we approach Veterans Day and prepare to honor those who have served our country, it should be noted there are approximately 350,000 Veterans living in Massachusetts, including some 37,000 who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq since Sept. 11, 2001. Our veterans and their families are all around us in our communities, many serving without asking for special recognition.

Although these veterans may not seek accolades from us, you can be assured that we in Massachusetts shall continue to lead our nation in supporting them. For example, a recent law passed in Massachusetts called The Valor Act focuses on providing better employment opportunities for our veterans, giving them due academic credit for their military training and increasing support for the families of deceased veterans.

The civilian community has recognized the sacrifices faced by veterans and their families, as evidenced by the creation of the “Staying Strong” program. This provides resources and training for our communities and schools to support families of veterans who are currently deployed. The North Beverly School was recently featured in a video and program sponsored by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital that debuted the Staying Strong program at the Statehouse. More information can be found at www.homebaseprogram.org.

The Home Base Program is providing innovative work and support for our returning war veterans, with recent estimates that one in three Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from significant post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury — the invisible wounds of war. Our commonwealth continues to utilize the services provided by our best teaching hospitals in Boston to treat veterans suffering from both.

The Veterans Committee in our state Legislature, of which I am a member, is currently following a very promising court-supervised program for defendants who have served in the armed forces and are struggling with mental health and substance-abuse issues. It is both a voluntary and rigid program that demands more from veterans than a regular probation program. The court promotes recovery and stability through extensive collaboration with the VA and the support of a veteran peer mentor who will act as an advocate, mentor and ally.

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