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There’s help for handling rigors of war

A Marine gripping the dogtags of his fallen comrades. It’s a straight-forward image, with a straight-forward message: If you need help, come and get it.


February 26,2006

That image adorns one of many posters that are going up across area Marine bases. The posters contain simple statements and phone numbers, all part of a campaign to make sure troops are aware of the services available to those returning from war.

The Deployment, Return and Reunion Program does not offer new services, said Capt. Richard Welton, the commander of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune and the program’s point man. What it does do is make the programs more visible and streamlined.

“This is an effort to gather the forces together and make them more visible to Marines, sailors and family members so they can have access to it.”

And the programs — such as discussion groups about deployment stress and workshops to help Marines reconnect with their spouses and children — should be in high demand in the coming months. Because thousands of Marines are returning home from Iraq.

They will find themselves suddenly thrown back into family life and the relative peace of the Jacksonville streets, all while trying to come to grips with what they saw and did.

Welton said they are seeing large increases in a number of problems that can be associated with readjusting from deployment.

“We are seeing four-times the (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), four times the family and substance abuse, four times the number of folks sleeping on the couch,” he said. “There’s a lot of need for this.”

But Marines are tough, many say, and often bottle up their anxiety and try to deal with it themselves. Better than looking weak or sick, they think.

That’s a perception military commanders are hoping to shatter. For one, while the various programs have access to medical professionals, their focus is not on medical problems in hopes of eliminating the stigma of seeking help.

“We try to keep the medical professionals as far back as possible,” he said. “Most of the services are available through the chaplains or (Marine Corps Community Services). This is not hospital related stuff.”

Welton said the program will continue to be revised as they learn more. A meeting in March will determine where they need to focus further efforts. Grief counseling and anger management are examples of things that are available but may need to be streamlined into the program, Welton said.

No matter the programs, its talking about these issues with others going through the same problems just may make all the difference, Welton said.

“It is important to talk about this stuff,” Welton said. “It is not abnormal to have this stress to the point where you can’t take care of it yourself. It’s better to talk about it then let it fester. Everybody is going through it. Seek the help you need in order to move one.”

The programs are available at Lejeune, and both New River and Cherry Point air stations. Interested folks can log on to lej-www.med.navy.mil/DRRP/DRRP.htm for more information. The program’s Web site acts as a portal to information about the various services and contact information. It also includes a printable brochure and the various posters that can be seen around the bases.

Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 229.