By NIKKI YOUNK
IRON MOUNTAIN - Help is out there for area veterans who are struggling with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any other post-combat issues after returning home from war.
Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
Chuck Lantz, director of the Dickinson County Office of Veterans’ Affairs, displays a poster for the inaugural Veterans Recovery Festival that will be held this Saturday at Pine Mountain. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
One resource is the inaugural Veterans Recovery Festival to be held at Pine Mountain Resort this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The free event will promote the creativity and resilience of veterans through their music, arts and crafts exhibits, wood carving, and more.
"This is going to be a great event for our veterans to mingle with other veterans and their families and the local community," said Chuck Lantz, director of the Dickinson County Office of Veterans' Affairs and festival coordinator. "I am personally inviting the public to also come and welcome home the 1432nd Engineering Company from Kingsford that arrived home from their combat tour in Afghanistan in March."
Scheduled musical acts from the local area include Country Gents, 3 Left Standing, and See Alice.
Also performing are nationally-known singer-songwriters Lem Genovese, a Vietnam War veteran, and Jason Moon, an Iraq War veteran.
Lantz pointed out that Moon in particular will be showcasing songs dealing with his own PTSD and struggle toward recovery.
"He has a really great message," Lantz added.
The performance schedule is: Country Gents from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., See Alice from 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m., Lem Genovese from 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., 3 Left Standing from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Jason Moon from 4:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Food vendors will be available throughout the day.
According to Lantz, there will also be booths featuring arts and crafts by veterans, booths by Friends of the 1432nd, Great Lakes Recovery Centers, and Integrated First Response, and booths by various departments of the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center.
"This will provide veterans a chance to see what entitlements they have coming from the VA Medical Center," said Lantz.
One of the resources offered by the VA is a veteran peer support group that meets every other week.
Facilitating the group are certified peer support specialists who know firsthand the struggles that veterans are going through.
They include John Jamison, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Fernando Chavarria, who spent six years in the U.S. Army National Guard. Both men served in Iraq.
"We use our own experiences to build trust-based relationships with the veterans," Jamison explained. "It helps that we were there and we know what it was like."
Chavarria emphasized that peer support is just one tool in an overall process that includes doctor-supervised therapy.
"The goal of peer support is not to replace therapy, but to add to it," he said.
VA Recovery Coordinator Karen Krebsbach added that peer support is part of a recovery model of care.
"We're allowing the veteran to command his own ship in a sense," she said. "It's about moving forward and getting better, and 'better' is different for each veteran."
According to Jamison, peer support will play a vital role with the influx of veterans who will be returning home as a result of the continuing drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.
"They'll be trying to get back to school, get back into the community, and I hope we can reach out to them," he said. "Most come back and don't consider therapy, but we can be a bridge to help them start with or continue therapy."
Although the target population for the peer support group is younger veterans who are returning from war, older veterans are more than welcome to join.
Currently, the support group is split into two sections: one with older veterans and one a mix of older and younger veterans.
Any veterans interested in joining the VA peer support group should contact their healthcare providers or their local VA clinic directly.
In addition, there is a new veteran support group in Iron Mountain that meets every Monday at 6 p.m. at the Dickinson County Library.
It is not affiliated with the VA.
For more information on that group, e-mail email@example.com or call (906) 282-5599.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.