Smart new ways to help vets come home
On Thursday (D-Day) the Gazette published a special page, “Our Military,” that was a reminder of the sacrifices made, short and long term, by those who choose to serve our country. The rest of us owe these men and women our gratitude and more — help when they return. If they return.
Lance Cpl. Anthony Denier of Mechanicville, whose name was added to the county veterans monument at Saratoga National Cemetery in a ceremony yesterday, is one of those who didn’t. He was killed in Afghanistan last December, only a month after arriving there.
Others on that special page may soon be going off to Afghanistan or some other dangerous place, having just completed basic training. They’ll surely be changed by their military experience, and quite possibly damaged by it, physically, mentally or both. The transition back to civilian life is often difficult, as evidenced by the high rates of joblessness, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and suicide among veterans.
That’s why efforts like the Saratoga County Veterans Peer to Peer Mentoring Program, funded by a state grant and in operation since January, are so important. It trains veterans, of any war and age, as mentors, and then assigns them to veterans, also of any war and age, who request one. They aren’t counselors, just someone the mentee can feel comfortable talking to once a week, someone who’s been through what they’ve been through — in combat and at home.
Another commendable effort mentioned in Thursday’s Gazette, in an obituary, was the Saratoga War Horse Program. This one, conceived in 2011 by a Vietnam veteran and a horsewoman from Saratoga Springs, teaches vets to care for retired racehorses, who, like them, are making a transition to a very different kind of life. Connecting to a sensitive animal, winning its confidence and trust, requires a certain gentleness and emotional openness, and has been shown to be therapeutic.
It’s a cliche to say of soldiers who have died at war that they paid the ultimate price. But those who return have also paid a price, and many continue to pay every day. They need our support.