Helping Veterans Adjust to Life at Home

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Many veterans and their families don't know where to start getting help as there is a lot of information and a lot of veteran services organization that exist. As a way to help, WHSV has put together a Veterans' Resource Guide which has information from finding a job, to getting medical care, as well as information for families. If you know of an organization for veterans that is not on the website then let us know.

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- The drawdown of American forces and the ending of the longest war in American military history is raising the question, are we ready to meet veterans' needs when they come home?

There was a time when returning veterans were not only unwelcomed, but unwanted.

"You were a baby killer. You were a rapist. You were a murderer. Nobody wanted to be around you," explained Michael Nicholas. He served in Vietnam and at VFW Post 632 in Harrisonburg, he finds kindred spirits in men like Jim Hughes.

"To be treated like we were was just horrible," said Hughes.

The treatment of veterans coming home from Vietnam casts a long shadow as the transition is never an easy one.

"My wife some nights gets up and goes in the other room to sleep because I'm having a nightmare," said Hughes, "these young kids over there now, they are going to have the same head problems we had."

Post-traumatic stress disorder is without a doubt, the most familiar and talked about issue for returning service men and women, but it is just one of many issues that arise after coming home.

"You have to come back and adjust to the to the way, the freedom that we have here, I guess the freedom that they don't have over there. And that is very hard. Okay because your wife, or your mother or your father, they don't understand what you just went through," said Nicholas.

Helping families understand is the reason FamilyOfHeroes.com exists. The site is an interactive program for veterans, families and even their friends, to walk them through the transitional process. The website, from the Virginia Department of Health, gives examples of what families may face after a deployment. As the site shows, finding a good job, or better yet a fulfilling career, can be an bigger challenge.


Virginia has the largest number of veterans per capita than any other state, according to small business website WalletHub. The Commonwealth is third in the country for veteran job opportunities, something that does not surprise Nicholas, "Hiring a soldier coming back from the service is a plus to any company. They bring benefits to the company. In my time in my era, we did not have that opportunity because you were blacklisted."

In mid-April, Virginia Tech sponsored Veterans in Society: Changing the Discourse, a conference that highlighted the need to step up and plug veterans into society. The conference was the idea of Eric Hodges, a Tech student who felt he didn't belong after leaving the marine corp, "It was a very tough transition for me, because you are coming from a very structured environment. You know, you have a very strong clear sense of purpose and that's replaced with a feeling of alienation and isolation."

Veterans like Hodges are looking to study veterans in a college setting. They'd like to see the area of veteran studies become a college major.

But for Hodges, easing the transition process does not mean it is ever over. When asked if veterans are ever fully transitioned, Hodges response, "Not really, I don't think we ever will."

For veterans, part of coming home is reaching for help and each other and appreciating their value.

"That veteran is worth gold. And we as VFW members, we look for them. To try and help them," said Nicholas.


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