UMTV: Vets Helping Vets
Troops returning from active duty can face many challenges including injuries, PTSD, or having a spouse still deployed. The SAFE Network, Soldiers and Families Embraced, operates at a Wesley Foundation near Ft. Campbell Army base. For some of the vets involved, ministering to other soldiers has proven to be the best medicine.
Locator: Clarksville, TN
Chris Crawford, Veteran: "I know with me, I can't stand sitting there talking to somebody who has no clue with what I've been through or what's going on, and then they try to sympathize with you."
Roger "Ted" Theodore, Veteran and former VA employee: "For one claim that I submitted, it languished in the VA system for six years before it was finally approved."
Alicia Khim, Veteran and Military Spouse: "Of course we don't always know if he's going to come home which is even hard to think about."
The SAFE Network Soldiers and Families Embraced - is a program that was founded to offer counseling and support to military and their families.
Jodi McCullah, SAFE Co-Founder and campus minister: "My name is Jodi McCullah. I am the campus minister at Austin Peay State University Wesley Foundation, in Clarksville, Tennessee. When we started the Lazarus Project , SAFE, we started working with students who were veterans, or who were connected to the military."
As the SAFE program expanded, one of its most vital ministries grew out of the desire of veterans to help other veterans.
Jodi McCullah: "We have a gentleman who had done two tours to Iraq and had been injured twice. He has a lot of pain. He was struggling with some very severe post-traumatic stress. But now, Chris is in ministry himself."
Chris Crawford: "My name's Chris Crawford. I came up with the idea for the No Fly Zone, just so the soldiers can come and talk about what problems they have. Half the time we sit here and talk about guns or the movies that we saw."
Chris Crawford talks with Ted Theodore at table: "I've got the digital, the Blu-ray, and the 3-D copy."
Chris Crawford: "But if we do have issues, you know, we've got other soldiers that's experiencing the same thing."
Chris Crawford talks with Ted Theodore at table: "I know I have issues&ellipsis;therefore I went to get help."
Chris Crawford: "The military has a whole different language... and there's things that we can talk about that other people are looking like, 'What's that mean?' "
Jodi McCullah: "They're there to do one thing that post traumatic stress victims have the hardest time which is build community again. And, so, for him to be thinking about someone else is also huge for his recovery and his feeling like, 'I have something to offer.' "
Ted Theodore talking with female veteran: "You've been out how long now?"
Ted Theodore: "My name is Roger Theodore, but I like to be called, 'Ted.' I was a loader, a gunner, tank commander. Because of the lifting you do, my back was killing me all the time. My knees were blown."
(Veteran talks with Ted)
Ted Theodore: "Once I retired from the VA and some of these conditions really manifest, there was nobody out there to guide me through the paper work.And that made me realize that there's nobody out here to help these people."
Jodi McCullah: "People wait two and three and four years to get their medications, to get their disability pay&ellipsis; so, having someone walk you through that is huge."
Ted Theodore talking with female veteran: "Download a VA form 21-4138."
Ted Theodore: "I retired in 2005. I'm still getting calls: 'Can you assist me? Can you help me?' And I don't turn anybody away."
Alicia Khim: "My name is Alicia Khim. I served from 2002 to 2005. I worked in a Soldier Readiness Processing Center where we did the medical in-processing or out-processing; coming or going from deployment. That was kind of the jumping off point as far as wanting to continue to work with soldiers and help soldiers."
"Once I was out of the military, I actually worked for a veterans cemetery at the time, and just interacting with veterans' family members, young soldiers' wives, widows, I knew that this was what I wanted to do."
"This is my husband's seventh deployment. He has been in the military for almost fourteen years. I am working on my Masters degree so that I can continue to work with soldiers in a counseling aspect."
Ted Theodore: "It's been sort of a therapy. It really has. And I like to see the results when they get their benefits and they're happy. It makes you feel pretty good."
Chris Crawford: "I feel like I'm doing something to help, 'cause, you know, in the military a lot of soldiers when they get out that's the problem. They've been in so long helping people and doing things, now they're out and they feel they can't help anybody."
Jodi McCullah: "Our hope is that at some point he and all these other guys will see themselves as something more than just a person with a disability now. That they see, 'I have things to offer still.' "
Find more information on The SAFE Network at TheSafeNetwork.org, or by calling 931-591-3241.
This story was first published on November 19, 2012