Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Programs available for veterans returning from war-torn countries

April 30, 2007

Video, “New programs available for returning veterans,” can be found at http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/index?section=health&id=3244475 under Video On Demand

KTRK By Christi Myers

(4/27/07 - KTRK/HOUSTON) - Combat veterans are understandably at higher risk for psychiatric problems than other Americans. Many Iraq vets haunted by what they have seen are having a hard time transitioning back to civilian life. But new programs are helping.

Edmund Jennings is home, listening to his grandfather talk about the family land in Baytown. It's a long way from Iraq, but the former Marine can't forget.

"They're thinking we're just blowing up their land when we're trying to stabilize the place, and we'd see children with missing limbs," said Jennings. "That was the hardest thing for me."

After two tours, many friends killed and injured, Edmund came home with a new battle to fight.

"I just took it out on a bottle," he said.

"Of course, being a Marine, he didn't want to ask for help," said Edmund's mother, Connie Jennings.

So his worried family got Edmund to the DeBakey V.A. in a surreptitious way.

"My mom kind of tricked me and said we were gonna go get some Mexican food and I was drinking real heavily and the next thing I know I end up here and it was the best thing that ever happened for me," he said.

"We try to give them ways to deal with the anger, ways to deal with alcohol and substance abuse that didn't exist before they left," said Fern Taylor, Iraqi Veteran Coordinator.

The Houston V.A. has treated some 2,000 young veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly as outpatients for medical problems and counseling.

"Every single returning veteran coming from Iraq, having served in combat, should come to this medical center, every single one," she said.

They don't want to make the same mistakes that led to addictions and homelessness among veterans of previous wars.

"We recognize when you came back home things were different. And perhaps you're having difficulty coping at this point," said Taylor. "And perhaps your family is having difficulty accepting you back because you're a different person."

"It is not a disgrace to have a problem with drinking," said Glenn Jennings, Jr., Edmund's father. "It's a disgrace not doing anything about it."

Edmund is engaged and has been sober a year. His family credits the V.A.

"As you can see, he's a success story and it can happen to any young man or woman," said Connie Jennings. Now Edmund wants his buddies to get the help he got.

"I've informed them about it, but they're gonna have to take steps on their own to get help," he said. "They're gonna have to want it themselves.

The Iraqi veteran coordinator wants every American returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to check in with them. The number is 713-794-7034. They have many services to offer, including free medical care for two years, and counseling if needed. Calls from wives or parents are also welcome.
(Copyright © 2007, KTRK-TV)