In honor of Veterans Day, the Wheeling Rotary Club on Tuesday welcomed Wheeling Vet Center team leader John Looney as its weekly speaker.
In addition to talking about services at the Vet Center, located at 1058 Bethlehem Blvd., Looney mentioned notable local veterans dating back to pre-Colonial times. He talked about Sam Brady, who is buried in West Liberty, serving as an original Army ranger for the Virginia Colony before the nation was formed.
Looney, a Vietnam veteran, also showed the Rotarians a photo from 1919 of his grandfather, Early Looney, with members of the 317 Regiment, 80 Blue Ridge Division. The unit served in France during World War I.
"All veterans are to be honored as those who take on the fight to protect us," Looney said.
He told the audience the Vet Center has served 3,000 Wheeling area veterans and their families since it opened in January 1989.
Looney said a major issue facing today's veterans and their families is transition back into society after military service.
"We facilitate that transition so these guys don't get stuck," he said.
He encouraged all veterans to take advantage of the available programs, including spouse groups, combat peer groups and other outreach offerings.
Looney said his agency has support groups in Steubenville, the Ohio Corrections Facility in Belmont County and plans are progressing to get into the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville. He talked about huge problems veterans encounter as they deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that typically surfaces about seven years after their discharge.
"Many vets are reluctant to seek help because PTSD comes with a 'big-boys-don't-cry' stigma," he said. "They really need to come in when they start feeling like it is stressful for them to seek help."
Looney said national figures show 22 suicides per day occur by veterans or active duty military personnel.
"For some reason I can't explain, we are still seeing suicides among Vietnam veterans," he said.
He welcomed veterans and their families to attend an open house on Nov. 16 to learn about veterans benefits and available services at the VA Health Care System in Pittsburgh.