When our armed forces return from combat, the impact it has on their lives is lasting, though not always evident. For many, they are returning with invisible wounds, that left untreated, can turn into scars. As service members adjust to civilian life, they can feel isolated and lost and struggle to cope with mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, traumatic brain Injuries, and addiction issues.
That's where Veterans Helping Veterans Now, an AmeriCorps program, comes in. The Colorado-based program opened its doors in 2007 and has been growing ever since. With the number of returning combat veterans increasing each day, AmeriCorps members at Veterans Helping Veterans Now provide services and resources to any veteran who wants help in the field of mental health and well-being.
AmeriCorps VISTA members Jordan Estes, 26, served five years in the Marine Corps. Twice deployed to Iraq as a Combat Engineer, Estes was tasked with conducting Cache and IED Sweeps to find enemy weapons and detonate enemy weapons.
When he returned to the States, Estes started attending support groups sponsored by the Veterans Helping Veterans Now program. After becoming familiar with AmeriCorps, Estes enlisted to become an AmeriCorps member at the very organization he sought help from months earlier.
“Some of the veterans who seek our help feel comfortable talking to someone like me who has been in their shoes and shares a common bond,” said Estes.
Estes helps connect veterans with support groups facilitated by licensed therapists at the organization. The groups are specifically tailored to military spouses and female veterans, veterans with PTSD and addiction issues, as well as a general veteran's support group. He also connects client to services and resources offered through the Veteran's Administration and the Veteran's Service Office.
“A lot of veterans come in not knowing what is available to them. Being a nonprofit makes us a little more inviting because it's our own community.”
Estes treats every veteran who seeks his help with one guiding principle: “I treat each person as an individual because no one veteran is the same. We've all had our own set of experiences that have molded us and I try to help each person in any way I can.”