When David Patton came from his second tour of duty in the Middle East he knew there was something wrong. He just didn’t know what it was. “I would go get in the car to go somewhere and then would shut off the car and go back inside and look for my weapon and kevlar,” said Patton. “I found myself staying home more and more. If I went into a restaurant and couldn’t find a seat facing the door I’d leave.”
Patton’s family members also recognized he was having problems. They couldn’t put a finger on it either. Finally, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was sent to a seven-week program in Topeka, Kan., and then realized he wasn’t the only veteran struggling with adjusting life at home.
Now, Patton is working to try and help those fellow vets. He is working to begin Vet 2 Vet, a peer counseling group in Washington. “The closest thing like it is in Bloomington,” said Patton. “With all of the soldiers that were activated as part of the National Guard we have a lot of vets around here.”
The Vet 2 Vet project will begin Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Harvest Community Fellowship Church at 200 West Main Street and will meet each Thursday evening after that. “We will be meeting as a group,” said Patton. “This gives the veterans a chance to talk with someone who has been through the same thing. It’s all voluntary. No one is taking attendance. There is no charge, nothing they have to do. Just show up and talk and listen. It’s all confidential.”
Getting a location for the program turned out a lot simpler than Patton had anticipated. “The people at the Harvest Community Church stepped right up,” he said. “I told them what I had in mind and they were ready to help, they provided a room and even helped with distributing fliers.”
PTSD can be difficult to recognize and deal with. “Sometimes it just kind of lays there in your head then some incident happens and you realize something is wrong. I used to love the 4th of July. Now, I really try to avoid it.”
While a lot of vets in this area may have been involved in Operation Iraqi Freedon, the Vet 2 Vet sessions are open to any former soldier. “It doesn’t matter if they were in Korea or Vietnam or Desert Storm,” said Patton. “This is open to them.”
The group sessions are not a replacement for more formal assistance veterans get through the V.A., but they will be different. “The V.A. does a good job, but even there they have a lot of people who have never served overseas. It’s just another way for a vet to get help outside of the V.A. This will help them deal with the anger and anxiety they feel, and it will be coming from people who know because they have experienced the same thing.”
Right now there is no way of knowing how many people might show up for the sessions. “I know there are vets out there that are hurting,” said Patton. “There are a few of them I talk to on a pretty regular basis. There are others who aren’t getting out at all. I hope they will show up. I know I’ll be there every Thursday night.”
For Patton the Vet 2 Vet program is his way of helping. “Doing this here is my way of giving back,” he said.