Anza’s Veterans Support Group; important support all year round

A Band of Brothers and Sisters gather to share support and to celebrate the holidays. Jodi Thomas photo
A Band of Brothers and Sisters gather to share support and to celebrate the holidays. Jodi Thomas photo

Every Monday for two hours from 9 to 11 a.m. a Band of Brothers and Sisters made up of veterans of all ages and military service from different wars, gather together to support one another.

The group meets next to the Indian Health Clinic in the heart of Anza located in the same complex as the Bank of Hemet on Hwy. 371. They come together to learn about how to improve their health and how to handle the myriad paper work that is required for acquiring benefits and to support one another. On this December morning, the veteran’s group came together to recognize the holiday season; enjoying a celebratory holiday feast prepared by Jilberto’s. Everyone enjoyed the authentic Mexican cuisine at break time.

During discussion time, there is a real sense of caring as the group listens to each service member share as they take their turn telling their stories. One veteran, Larry, shared how he and his family recently went to Sea World on a special day for servicemen and women. He told how during the Shamu Show, veterans were asked to stand and be honored. Around 2,000 people were there he said.

“It felt good, we sure did not get that kind of reception when we came home from Vietnam. But at least now we do,” he said.

Discussion time is an important component at the Anza’s Veterans Support Group.  Jodi Thomas photo
Discussion time is an important component at the Anza’s Veterans Support Group. Jodi Thomas photo

Another veteran, Daryl, said he too had recently experienced a similar feeling when vets had been honored at a college graduation they attended for their son in Arizona. The emotion that sprang from the lack of appreciation when coming home from war bounced around the room. The new sentiment caused by others’ simple act of recognition, had tapped into new feelings for these vets and their emotional impact could be felt throughout the room.

One gentleman had been seen by many doctors for a condition that plagued him and was given one diagnosis at one place and another at a different appointment. For veteran’s suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury this type of situation can be very confusing. Fortunately, this gentleman had an advocate named Chuck, a veteran who also attends the group. Having someone to be an advocate and go with veterans to appointments was highly stressed at the meeting. An advocate can help clear up confusion both for the veteran on what the doctor has said and can share important information when visiting a new doctor on the patient’s behalf. The importance of taking medication regularly and how to do that when one has a forgetful mind was also a topic of discussion.

According to the Wounded Warrior project, “Over 540,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD.” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs after experiencing extreme trauma or a life-threatening event. “One in five veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan War come home with PTSD.”

In addition to PTSD, military personnel coming back from war may also have suffered from a physical brain injury, TBI caused by blasts during combat, or other injuries.

Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Survivors guilt, loneliness, feeling of being useless, hopelessness, self-destructive behavior, addiction, poor decision making, the lack of ability to stick to something, fear, distrust, poor problem-solving skills, memory loss, as well as a variety of physical complaints can accompany PTSD making everyday life difficult.

Those suffering from PTSD will often have trouble with close family relationships or friendships. Their symptoms can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication and problem-solving, which may affect the way they act with others and how others at toward them. These facts further lead to the destruction of much needed support from pre-deployment relationships.

That is one reason Anza’s Veterans Support Group was formed; to be a voice of help, support and understanding. All veterans are welcome.

Veterans gatherings meet on Mondays 9 to 11 a.m. next to Indian Health, 39100 Contreras Road. Anza, Suite D in Anza. Call John Sheehan for questions at (951) 923-6153. Those in need of an advocate to help with Veterans Affairs benefits should call Ronnie Imel at (951) 659-9884.

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