Sunday, May 31, 2009

NJ conference to focus on needs of wounded vets as they return home

From The Gloucester County Times:

In the Vietnam war, for every soldier killed, three came home wounded. In Iraq, for every soldier killed, seven come home wounded. While the fatality numbers are dropping since the start of the war in Iraq, more veterans are coming home hurting both physically and emotionally.

With more soldiers coming home wounded, the need for therapy and physical treatment is becoming a pressing issue and will be recognized in an upcoming conference.

"We are all responsible to each other," said Evelyn Scholl, director of communications at the Southwest Council. The organization is hosting the conference entitled, "The Battle Beneath: the Camouflage Continues, the Plight of Returning Vets."

The conference, which is scheduled for June 5 in Vineland, focuses on veterans who are trying to adjust to civilian life and are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI can occur from being near blasts and explosives as well as falls and motor vehicle accidents.

Melissa Arnott, a counselor and educator, will be speaking in the morning about the anger issues facing the veterans, the guilt they face, the drug and alcohol abuse and other topics facing veterans. Arnott is a licensed professional counselor in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and owns a private counseling practice. Currently she works as a director of the Academic Success Center at Rowan University, and started the second Student Veterans Association.

"It is heartwrenching to see these young people leave and come back in the condition they are in," said Arnott.

The afternoon will host a panel of experts such as Eric Arauz of Arauz Inspirational Enterprises, a disabled American veteran; and Lauren Delricci, president of Rowan University's Student Veterans Association. The panel will be moderated by Angelo Romeo, who was in the U.S. Army in Germany and Vietnam and is currently the director of the Gloucester County Office of Veterans Affairs.

In previous wars, the help was limited to the soldiers, not attending to the families who were being affected by PTSD. The number of services is branching out to group therapy, couples counseling and family therapy.

"You have everyone recognizing and accepting the fact that this is something that affects not just the warrior but the entire family," said Romeo.

Romeo said there are now services available for veterans to go and talk, and for the families as well.

The Southwest Council is part of the New Jersey Prevention Network. The symposium will be at the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland on June 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The conference is free but attendees must pre-register by Friday. The maximum attendance is 200.