Updated 10/08/2008 07:10 AM
Soldiering on with post traumatic stress disorder
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Gene Vereen is a Korean War veteran who's been battling drug and alcohol addiction since he left the service.
"I was in that kind of mindset where I didn't care. You know? I just didn't care," said Vereen.
Like many veterans, Vereen suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Today, he's completely clean and sober, thanks to the treatment he received at Soldier On, a homeless veteran shelter in Pittsfield. That's where a committee that studies what it calls the hidden wounds of war on Massachusetts service members met Tuesday.
"We're trying to find out why people fall through the cracks. Why are people out there trying to commit suicide because they have these problems? We want to make sure that everybody who's given to this country, everything they could give, that we return to them the benefits that we have established here in America," said State Representative Anthony Verga.
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Those are benefits soldiers with PTSD can get at rehab facilities like Soldier On, a place for counseling and treating mostly older veterans. But with recent Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers facing the same traumatic disorders, the committee wants to learn how to offer more help.
"We won't eliminate the problem, but we can help the people with the problem," said Verga.
Later this month, Soldier On hopes to break ground on a 39 unit co-op housing facility, where veterans would actually own their own unit. It's part of a commitment to rehabilitating soldiers long after they've come home from battle.
"If we can build affordable housing with services built in, these folks will stay housed, they'll stay safe and they'll stay as really creative people in the community," said Soldier On President and CEO Jack Downing.
Services like those that have helped to rebuild the lives of a lot of veterans with PTSD, especially Gene Vereen.
"I'm so grateful that I made it. And here I am. It's beautiful," said Vereen.