CARS HOMES JOBS

Program aims to smooth soldier's transition

Thursday, June 6, 2013
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— A tour of duty in Vietnam left its mark on Gary Lloyd of Ballston Spa.

The 67-year-old U.S. Army veteran lost part of one leg to a booby trap while a member of the 25th Infantry Division, and there were many other occasions when he said he could have easily been killed in combat.

“I was able to handle it all, but I know there are others who are not able to handle these things,” he said.

Transitioning back to civilian life after spending time in the military can be struggle for many. In recognition of that, the Saratoga County Veterans Peer to Peer Mentoring Program was developed.

The state grant-funded program, which has been in the works since January, matches peer mentors with veterans who could benefit from talking with someone who can relate to what they’re going through.

Saratoga County Veterans Peer to Peer Mentoring Program Kickoff Event

Transitioning back to civilian life after spending time in the military can be struggle for many. In recognition of that, the Saratoga County Veterans Peer to Peer Mentoring Program was developed.

Mentors go through training and are then encouraged to meet with their assigned veteran ever other week and check in by phone during the off-weeks. Meetings are informal get-togethers wherever is comfortable for the pair, and there is no set format.

Mentors aren’t trained to be counselors, but rather resources who serve as a buffer between military and civilian life.

“They already come in with the veteran piece, so this is a way for our young veterans to have somebody that they either don’t have to explain their story to, or if they do, it’s someone who understands it,” explained Amy Hughes, program coordinator for the peer mentoring program. “It’s no one who’s going to act shocked or ask questions that might not be appropriate because they’ve been there, as well, especially when it comes to combat issues. So it’s an opportunity for them to really be able to relax a little bit and not worry about what kind of impression they’re making.”

Veterans of any age can benefit from the program, said combat veteran Felipe Moon, who serves as the Veterans Service Agency director for Saratoga County.

“This is an issue across the board,” he said. “This is an issue to include our Vietnam veterans. There might be still a Vietnam veteran that needs a peer.”

So far, the program has 13 peer mentors and more are being sought. Lloyd signed on to be a mentor after seeing an ad for the program about six months ago.

“I was fully aware of the major problem with suicides and young men adjusting after they got home from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s just sad to see someone young, who has their whole life, losing time to being confused about life and maybe feeling forgotten.”

The man Lloyd is assigned to meet with specifically requested an older veteran as a mentor. He’s not the only one to do so, Hughes noted.

“A couple of our young guys specifically requested Vietnam veterans or somebody who’s a little bit older because they want to know that down the road it is going to get better, that there is hope, that there are possibilities,” she explained.

Veterans of any age can apply to be a mentor of can seek a mentor by calling Hughes at 884-4999.

Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or kdelarocha@dailygazette.net.

 
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