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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Abbie Pickett Organizes Vet Support Group in Madison

This past week, I posted the first in my series covering the Iraq veterans panel at the YearlyKos convention I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend. That piece offered a glimpse into a brief conversation I had with Abbie Pickett, 23, who served in Iraq with the Army National Guard's 229th Combat Support Equipment Company. I have an update for you on a leadership role she's taking on bringing other vets together in Madison, WI. I've also got an audio link to share that will give you the chance to hear her talk on her combat experiences and her resulting PTSD.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

To get closer to Abbie's journey from combat zone to home front, listen to her tell it via an audio clip available at Youth Radio [transcript], or check out NPR's Morning Edition from last year. (Youth Radio, btw, has a growing collection of returning veteran audio clips on their Reflection on Return page; well worth a listen.)

Now, an update. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

When Abbie Pickett came home from deployment in Iraq, she said she had trouble even acknowledging to strangers that she was a veteran. "I called myself a closet vet," she said. "For a while, I just told people I was abroad for a year." Today she has since toured the country, speaking at colleges, to the press and to Washington lawmakers about her experience.

Pickett, who grew up in Darlington and lives in Madison, served in the National Guard. She was in Iraq for 11 months in 2003 and 2004. When she came home, she said she suffered severe post traumatic stress disorder and had trouble adjusting to civilian life. Being able to connect with other veterans, especially others who served in Iraq, helped her transition, Pickett said.

Her work with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) helped to put her back in touch with others who could relate to her experiences. And now she's moving into a leadership position in her own hometown, Madison, WI.

Now Pickett is helping organize a support group for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Madison. The Military Families for Peace and Military Family Compassion Groups hosted a cook-out for the new group Wednesday at Vilas Park.

Patrick Wilcox, another Iraq veteran at the cookout, said the group could fill a void in Madison. Because Madison is not traditionally a military town or close to a base, Wilcox said finding other veterans to talk with can be difficult. "It's really rare to meet someone in school who is a vet," said Wilcox, who now attends Edgewood College.

Wilcox added that at traditional veterans groups like the VFW, veterans are mostly a generation or two older. Pickett said while older veterans might have similar experiences, it can be harder to relate to them. "Talking with Vietnam vets has been very helpful," Pickett said. "But at the same time, it can be hard to connect to someone my father's age."

Pickett said she hopes the group can continue to meet socially.

The next event will be another cookout at the Vilas Park Shelter on July 4. After that, Pickett said she hopes the group can meet for ballgames or Concerts on the Square. "It'd be a great thing for us to start this and keep catching more and more vets as they start coming home," she said.

Now this is inspiring. Hat tip to you, Abbie!

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