There is not a one size fits all for Veterans.
A well-timed bear hug from a Vietnam veteran persuaded Jonathan Wicks to put down the gun he’d raised to his head and start seeking therapy for the post-traumatic stress he developed after serving in Iraq.
Nine years later, Wicks is the one giving back to former military service members as a counselor at the Tacoma Vet Center. It’s rewarding work for a veteran inspired by his own therapists at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“PTSD showed me what my meaning is” in life, he said.
Wicks shared his story Friday with an audience of nearly 200 at the University of Washington Tacoma, urging them to show compassionate, nonjudgmental care for veterans leaving the military after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His testimony was part of a conference on veterans and military families that was targeted at professionals in social work, counseling and human resources. They’re among those most likely to encounter veterans struggling to adjust to civilian living.
“We have to learn how to come home just as well as we learned how to go into the military,” said Stephen Robinson, a retired soldier who helped bring the conference together as vice president of external affairs for Prudential.
The caregivers at the conference aim to help veterans move on to fulfilling lives. In the South Sound, more than 9,000 troops are leaving the military out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord every year.
Across the military, the Defense Department is shedding tens of thousands of positions for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.