My Turn by Doris Aaronson

| 17 May 2012 | 12:52

    The West Milford Health Advisory Board and US Veterans personnel have been working together to facilitate the possibility of having a veterans' support group in West Milford for any interested veterans in North Jersey for all conflicts, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea was motivated by returning vets who would like to have discussions with other vets about making transitions from military to civilian life. Motivation was also provided by a newspaper article about a successful veterans support group in Sussex County that has been meeting during the past year.

    Vets returning to a non-military life often miss sharing their experiences with their military friends. They may find it difficult to share those experiences with family and past friends who have never known military life, with those who may ask seemingly inappropriate or intrusive questions, and those who can not understand the emotional aspects of military life.

    Some returning vets may be grieving for the loss of their war-time buddies, or may be disturbed by their own memories of war-time events. Other vets may want to apply to educational programs without the usual advice and help that teachers and counselors provide for currently active students. Yet others may be facing the difficulties of landing appropriate jobs in our current distressed economy, when their war-time activities don't provide the types of past experiences for which employers are looking. War-time activities are often physical activities whereas civilian job-related activities may be mental ones, involving operating equipment or interacting with associates or customers.

    In some instances, returning vets can benefit from information from those who preceded them in transitioning from a highly structured military life to a more complex civilian life, where strangers are not enemies. They may benefit from information on converting their military skills to becoming more job-appropriate skills in the civilian world. Also, information from others may be helpful in writing successful applications for educational programs or resumes for employment. Vets can often benefit from interacting with others who are also facing the challenges of returning to civilian life.

    Often it is helpful to returning vets to discuss the above types of issues with other vets who are having similar experiences and who have experimented with one or another way of dealing with their return to civilian life. It is also helpful and enjoyable to meet and make new friends who share similar past experiences. It is hoped that families and friends would encourage returning veterans to explore the benefits of joining a veterans discussion group that focuses on transitioning from military to civilian life.

    Any North Jersey veterans who might be interested in obtaining information about, or in exploring the possibility of joining a veterans support group that would meet monthly in West Milford can contact the West Milford Veterans Coordinator, Pat Loughman, at 973-728-2707 or by writing him at the Hillcrest Community Center, 1810

    Macopin Road, West Milford NJ 07480.

    Doris Aaronson is a member of the West Milford Health Advisory Board.