Deadline Now: Help for Veterans and Their Families

Deadline Now: Help for Veterans and Their Families

Friday, September 27, 2013

As our nation's longest war slowly winds down, thousands of returning veterans and their families face numerous challenges. What are those challenges and what services are available to vets and their families?

Derek Atkinson, Public Affairs Officer for VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and Sarah KH Richards, a licensed social worker for VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, as well as Katheryn C. Maguire, Ph.D., Wayne State University and the author of Stress and Coping in Families, join host Jack Lessenberry..

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Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

Years ago I knew an elderly tax lawyer in Memphis, Tennessee who had been in military intelligence during World War Two. He was, in fact, a spy. For more than three years, he was not allowed to communicate with his wife at all. She told me that once a year, she would be told that he was still alive and doing well. But that was it.

I asked her how she coped with that. She shrugged, “That was just how it was,” she said. You coped because that was what was expected. That was, of course, a different war and a different era. World War Two was perhaps our nation’s least controversial war. 

It was seen as a war of national survival, an unavoidable struggle of good against evil. Nor were modern means of transportation or communications available seventy years ago.

My friend’s wife never expected to see him or hear his voice, because that would have been essentially impossible.

Today, of course, many soldiers can be pretty much constantly in touch with home. He or she conceivably might be fighting in Afghanistan on Tuesday and back in Toledo by Thursday night.

Frankly, I think in some cases this makes things emotionally harder for all concerned. Soldiers in the world wars usually had weeks or months to make the transition from the battlefield to civilian life. Now I know perfectly well that soldiers in past wars also have had problems stemming from communications difficulties.

 Many were consumed with worry about pregnant spouses or sick children, not to mention relationship difficulties and the fear of getting a “Dear John” letter.

Yet soldiers and veterans today face a new set of problems in today’s highly connected world, problems that are likely to be with us for some time, since war doesn’t seem likely to be abolished anytime soon. Which means society is going to continue to need scholars like Katheryn Maguire and people like Sarah Richards and Derek Atkinson. 

Perhaps more than ever.