28 May 2014

Pairs of Parents Launch PTSD-Awareness Events June 7

As "Operation Engage America," two pairs of parents are partnering to provide California and Iowa military families with resources about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and veteran suicide. Together with veterans advocates, activists, and organizations, Jean and Howard Somers of San Diego, Calif., and Lisa and Jeff Naslund, Galva, Iowa, will host 4-hour information meetings in their respective states on June 7.

In the years to come, their goal is to see more "Community Days of Support, Awareness, and Education for Post-Traumatic Stress" every June, which is PTSD Awareness Month.
Daniel Somers during a deployment to Iraq. PHOTO: Somers family

Location for the California event is:
American Legion Post 731
7245 Linda Vista Rd.
San Diego, Calif. 92111
Location for the Iowa event is:
VFW Post 9662
1309 N.E. 66th Ave.,
Des Moines, Iowa 50313
California Army National Guard Sgt. Daniel Somers, 30, of Phoenix, Ariz. was a military intelligence soldier, rock musician, and Iraq War veteran. He died in June 2013.

Somers' parents subsequently urged the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to create more awareness and efficiencies regarding PTSD and veteran suicide.

Dillion Naslund during a deployment to Afghanistan. PHOTO: Naslund family 
Iowa Army National Guard Sgt. Dillion Naslund, 25, of Galva, Iowa was an infantry soldier, construction worker, and had deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-2011 with the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (34th Inf. Div.). His family's and community's reactions to his December 2013 death was the subject of a television documentary broadcast earlier this year, and previously mentioned on the Red Bull Rising blog.

In press materials related to the June 7 events, the Somers write:
We have learned countless facts over the past ten months: Among them, PTSD is not military-specific. It affects our first responders, victims of domestic, child and sexual abuse, even some of those who’ve experienced natural disasters and automobile accidents. Additionally, there are thousands of people who sincerely want to help. It is estimated that there are 44,000 volunteer organizations in the United States dedicated to helping service members and their families.

So, you may ask, what is the problem? The problem is visibility.

As parents of a married service member, we had no idea that there were resources for us, resources that could have helped us understand what our son went through, what he was going through and how to help him. We had no idea that we could have called the Veterans Administration and asked to speak with his mental health providers to give them a clearer picture of what changes we saw in Daniel. We had no idea that the Vet Center could have provided us insight and guidance in how to talk to him about his war experiences.

There has been much progress at the VA and DoD since Daniel last “touched” the government system that should have helped him. There is much still to be done. There are those 44,000 organizations trying to fill the many gaps. But how do you know who they are, how do you find them, how do you even know they are there for you?
Participating organizations include:
  • American Legion
  • Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • San Diego VA Medical Center
  • VA Central Iowa Health Care System
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars
For more information about Operation Engage America, visit the organizational website here.

For information about the California event, contact Jean or Howard Somers via e-mail: oea.sandiego@gmail.com

For information about the Iowa event, Lisa Naslund via e-mail: jelinasl@schallertel.net

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