Recovery from combat injuries can be a challenge for veterans. Even after physical wounds have healed there can emotional damage that lasts for years.
The Helen Farabee Centers have worked with veterans to offer BEITZ, Bring Everyone In The Zone, a peer group that helps vets and their families deal with life changing Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.
“As a facilitator I keep the group on track,” said Michael Ballard, who, while serving in Afghanistan as an Army Combat Medic, was gravely injured in a mine explosion. “I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist. I’ve just been there and done that. I have PTSD.”
Elliot Bonner, Helen Farabee veterans peer coordinator, says program facilitators were interviewed and given the outline for running group sessions. A weekend of facilitator training followed at Killeen.
Ballard and his wife Jennifer recently took time to promote the program.
“PTSD doesn’t affect one person. It affects a whole family,” Jennifer said. “This includes spouses who don’t understand why their husband’s (or wife’s) doing certain things. The group interacts at a time in their lives when things are changing. People share what has and hasn’t worked.”
Michael said the Army has only recently recognized PTSD and BEITZ has stepped up to help.
“There are not a lot of things like this, a way to dig out of deep depression,” Michael said. “People come and go from the sessions. Some learn soon, others take longer. The object is to share. When you try to help others you help yourself.”
Any number of things can trigger PTSD responses. Agitation at the sound of a helicopter or loud noises. Along with group support, Michael also counts on his service dog, Apollo.
“When I get upset he does too, shows me what I’m doing and calms me down,” Michael said, looking down at the specially trained German Shepherd lying at his feet. “He’s also there when I have balance problems, leans in and steadies me.”
Through BEITZ and Helen Farabee veterans can also be directed to other needed assistance.
“We’re not affiliated with the Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice,” Michael said. “We do have contacts in the county but no matter how many years of service they may have vets of any generation, whether it’s World War II, Korea, Vietnam or Afghanistan can come to us with issues. We’ll help them or direct them to help.”
The BEITZ groups welcome vets with PTSD, military related sexual assault victims, those with Traumatic Brain Injury, and their families.
Meetings for men are from are from noon to 1 p.m. Mondays at Helen Farabee Center, 500 Broad St. The women’s meetings are from 5:30 to 6: 30 p.m. Tuesdays at 901 Indiana St. Karen Watson and Sherri Ward are the facilitators.
To take part in the veterans or family support meetings contact Elliot Bonner at 940-397-3315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.