Veterans' invisible wounds discussed at PTSD conference

November 14, 2013

The closing flag ceremony conducted by the ROTC and the Native American Color Guard. The closing flag ceremony conducted by the ROTC and the Native American Color Guard.

Military veterans, mental health professionals, representatives of various government and private agencies came together to discuss and learn more about the many facets of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at a professional conference hosted on the Chadron State College campus this week.

The professional social work class taught by Bruce Hoem planned and hosted the event which included opening remarks by Nebraska Senator Al Davis and Nebraska Army Guard Col. Tom Brewer.

Brewer, father of CSC junior and ROTC member Kalee Brewer, said the medical care he received when he was injured in combat in 2003 was vastly improved when he was injured in combat again in 2011. He is now in the process of retiring.

The Purple Heart recipient said he is still receiving speech therapy as part of his ongoing care. He praised the VA centers in Lincoln and Omaha where he has received treatment. Others in attendance expressed varying levels of satisfaction with access and quality of VA care.

Brewer said of the conference, “It was a fantastic opportunity for community outreach. It’s encouraging to see different states represented at a collaborative event like this.”

Topics discussed by a panel of experts in the morning and 18 breakout sessions in the afternoon included symptoms, the history of PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury and how it relates to PTSD, medical treatment access and options, mental health care including counseling, prescriptions drugs, adjusting back to civilian life, recovery from addictions, prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Hoem, associate professor in the counseling, psychology and social work department, said attendance was up from last year with nearly 200 participants from several states. Past conferences hosted by the senior-level class have included awareness topics such as bullying, cancer and disabilities.

Gary May, a double amputee Vietnam veteran and associate professor of social work in the graduate program at the University of Southern Indiana, served as keynote speaker.

May reiterated throughout the day that he believes there are better ways than war to resolve differences and he hopes that the need to have citizens become veterans will decrease in the future.

“Make peace happen,” he said.

He observed that Americans are doing better about separating their feelings about the war from their feeling about the warrior, unlike during the Vietnam era. CSC business faculty member Tim Donahue shared the brutal treatment he received from counter-culture groups, co-workers and others when he returned from fighting in Vietnam.

“Clapping at the airport when they come home and the NFL using camo towels is not enough. The VFW scholarship we heard about today is real, tangible, substantial way to say ‘thank you’.”

Read more about the VFW scholarship which was announced at a Veterans Day ceremony in the Sandoz Center Chicoine Atrium in the CSC news archive, Nov. 11.

—Tena L. Cook, Interim Marketing Coordinator