Written by Kenneth Coffee, Military Veteran & Survivor
Many of us who have once served in the military regardless of length of service find ourselves missing the “family” we had during our tours. There is catharsis in having shared experiences with others around us. As someone who has actually left the military twice, I can tell you it is disorienting to find yourself in a world you no longer quite fit into and which does not understand your new way of thinking or your most significant experiences. To those who knew you prior to service, you aren’t the same person they knew before. You act differently, you talk differently, you respond differently. They don’t know how to connect to you anymore and nor you with them.
Ironically these can be the same experiences as a survivor of sexual violence. As vets and survivors we can find ourselves isolated within isolation. It isn’t uncommon to find you are feeling extra distant from the world we are in. Most resources specifically designed for veteran, active duty, and reserve component survivors have only been created within the last 10 years. Few of them have been well publicized or have found difficulty in connecting with the survivors who they cater to. Some of the great news is that many of these services are free, spread across the country, don’t depend on discharge type, and bring survivor vets together to find a family and heal together. Agencies such as the Vet Center operated by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs provide satellite support that is holistic and confidential. A number of nonprofit organizations are standing up and expanding to serve this unique population. In Colorado Springs, Mt. Carmel (veteranscenter.org) offers counseling, referral, and job finding support to all veterans regardless of characterization of service. They also assist current and transitioning service members and their families. This done at little or no cost to those they serve as they and many of these organizations receive grant funding and community donations.
To find a veteran support resource near you go to www.va.gov/find-locations to search by city and state or by zip code. Other services can be found through the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Safe Helpline at safehelpline.org for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Information can also be found by or by downloading the app for Android or IOS at safehelpline.org/app. The app allows for confidential chat and searches for local resources. To find local Veteran Service Organizations in your area you can search for “Military Sexual Trauma near me” or “Veteran Services near me”.
You should know that you still have a family, that family is waiting to meet you, and many of the service providers are veterans themselves who want to help their brothers and sisters.
Finally, let us all remember on this Memorial Day all of those who have fallen in the defense of our great nation and their brothers and sisters, including those who have fallen to the wounds that lead to suicide. We owe them all our deepest gratitude.