BETHLEHEM - Combat veterans who need help getting back to enjoying life can learn how at the Vet Center in Bethlehem.
The center, located at 1058 Bethlehem Blvd. at the Village Plaza, offers free counseling services to combat veterans of all wars and their family members. Team Leader John Looney said veterans from across the Ohio Valley receive the readjustment counseling services at the Bethlehem location. And services are now offered on certain days in Barnesville, Steubenville and Washington, Pa. Looney, a Vietnam war veteran, said most veterans look forward to and enjoy the counseling sessions that are usually conducted in a group setting.
"They find out that everybody's the same. They find out they're not going crazy - that it's normal," he said.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Veteran Center employees gather outside of the Bethlehem office at the Village Plaza. From left are John Looney, team leader; Eric Ullery, social worker; Sara DeLong, family therapist; Jeremy Harrison, social worker; and Michael Novotney, veterans outreach specialist.
Veterans Outreach Specialist Michael Novotney, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, said after active duty is over not having their comrades around for support can be difficult for a veteran. But the Vet Center's counseling program allows people to meet with and talk to other veterans.
"A lot of people can't understand these experiences and that's why it only can be shared with fellow combat vets," Novotney said.
Looney noted some veterans may not realize they need help, but their friends and family members often do. Others may not want to talk about their experiences with non-veterans because they don't want to be judged, he added.
"They don't have to explain themselves here. They can be themselves. ... A lot of people know a veteran and can encourage them to come in or come in with them," Looney said.
The center also has group counseling for the entire family including children.
"The kids have to be reintroduced to them. They forget who they are, they can't remember," Looney noted.
For more information about the Vet Center, call 304-232-0587.
Both Novotney and Looney said they keep in touch with the veterans they served with in the Army. Novotney noted he tries to keep up with the latest news about soldiers overseas, but it is often frustrating because he knows what they are going through. He said the most frustrating part of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan was that a person could be friendly one minute and then become an enemy the next. For example, a shopkeeper may ofter intelligence one day and then be involved with an IED attack on U.S. troops the next.
But some people may have acted in a such a manner because their families were threatened, he noted. Looney said in Vietnam the enemy wore a uniform, but villagers often were scared to help U.S. soldiers because they also were threatened. In Vietnam, there were no IED attacks, but the enemy used various traps in villages and the jungle to injure and kill soldiers, he said.