DAV reaching out to veterans coming home from combat

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Knowing that returning from war is often only half the battle, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 51 plans to lend a helping hand.

The local DAV has initiated the Helping Hand 2004 outreach program to help homecoming veterans and their families prepare for an often difficult adjustment period.

The three primary objectives are to assist veterans in obtaining benefits, to help family members prepare for a smooth homecoming and to educate families about the assistance available from various government agencies.

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"This is geared towards veterans and to reach out to their families to help them prepare for the homecoming," said DAV Commander Stephen Saunders.

It is up to the veteran or family to initiate the contact. A DAV representative will then meet with them, free of charge, to go over things that can be done to ensure a happy homecoming and ways to make sure veterans receive the benefits they deserve, Saunders said.

The DAV has compiled a list of things that family members and loved ones should do to welcome home their heroes that include telling veterans how proud and grateful they are, encouraging them to write down their experiences, making copies of all military records and encouraging them to stay in contact with those with which they served.

Suggestions of things to avoid include talking about issues or topics that involve killing, telling them to "get over it," avoiding loud noises such as gunfire or fireworks, not forcing veterans to watch news about war unless they want to and avoid talking about the politics of the war because it may make soldiers feel as if their sacrifices were for naught.

Saunders and the DAV also wants to encourage veterans to think ahead and document any health problems so that they can receive VA benefits if a problem occurs.

Anyone who would like to contact the DAV about the outreach program can call Saunders at 532-6019.