From the Associated Press:
Robert Herubin knew his friend Jonathan Schulze [in the bottom front photo of the three to the left; Joshua Omvig is in the middle, Jeffrey Lucey at top], after a tour of combat duty in Iraq, was on a downward spiral. Depressed, drinking heavily and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, nobody was able to reach the troubled Marine before he killed himself in January.
Herubin and others close to the Purple Heart recipient wondered what more could have been done. An answer has since emerged in the form of the Jonathan Schulze "I Can't Hear You" Foundation, which aims to pair veterans returning from combat with other veterans who have experienced war. ...
The group is launching its first chapter at a VFW post in suburban Prior Lake, where Herubin first met Schulze after he returned from Iraq and a grueling tour that included door-to-door combat in the city of Fallujah.
Schulze died at his New Prague home, at the age of 25, on Jan. 16, about two years after he came home. His family has said that in the days prior to his death, Schulze was placed on a waiting list after telling workers at the St. Cloud Veterans Administration Medical Center that he was suicidal, a claim the VA denied after an investigation.
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In the interest of education, article quoted from extensively.
From the foundation's website:
Through charitable donations and various support organizations, we will move forward to establish this mentoring program with veterans service organizations. We will continue to explore partnerships with other organizations to serve our veterans and active and reserve service members. ...
The Jonny's Lounge Mentoring Program [pdf] will be part of the process.
Jonny's Lounge will be a discreet place that combat veterans and active duty service members may go for support, without any duty of disclosure. Mentors will also provide a comprehensive listing of viable options: private and public sector assistance programs.
Continuing from AP:
[T]he foundation believes mentors would provide veterans with a long-standing personal connection that the VA or most social services can't provide. Moreover, such an approach would encourage communities -- through their VFW or American Legion posts -- to care for their own veterans, Herubin said.
The initial mentors are being recruited through the Prior Lake VFW, with plans to reach out to veterans at their service organizations in other cities across Minnesota. The mentors will be trained to be confidants as well as guides who can navigate the complex social services network and make sure the veterans are following through with the care they need. Sometimes, they'll just be there for dinner or a movie.
The Rev. John Morris, a chaplain who oversees the [Minnesota National] Guard's reintegration program, called the idea behind the Schulze foundation "a neat synergy." "When they first started, the VFWs and Legions were sort of doing this by bringing veterans together, but before we knew much about the psychology part of it, before we knew much about what returning soldiers are dealing with," he said.
In Schulze's case, he was OK for a few months after returning to Minnesota in January 2005 (his 10-month tour in Iraq ended in the fall of 2004). But flashbacks, nightmares and depression began to take their toll, and Schulze began drinking more than he should, said his mother, Eileen Carlson.
He found a measure of solace at the VFW, where he attended some weekly meetings and served on the post's honor guard for funerals. He also met several times with VA health workers for help with PTSD, but he remained troubled, she said, with his family unsure how to break through. "I was his mother, so I wasn't over there when his buddies were killed beside him and he was killing people, so it's hard to understand what he was going through and dealing with," she said. "Just to have someone who has been in something like that to talk to, that's important."
My greatest admiration to military families like the Schulzes who have worked so hard to improve benefits and services for returning troops.
Contact "I Can't Hear You" to offer or receive support.
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