The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today.
That war is over, but many troops who fought there are now waging personal battles at home. While thousands suffered physical wounds, the nightmare of war is refought in the minds of hundreds of thousands of troops daily as they suffer with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“One of my friends said, as she put it, that her husband, he didn’t die, but he didn’t come home,” said Nicole James, wife of former Marine Sgt. Jesse James, who deployed to Iraq twice and deals with PTSD and other aftereffects of several blasts. “He’s a completely different guy. It’s a grieving process in accepting that it’s not him. … You have to go through that and accept that it’s not going to be him, so you can move on toward accepting who he is now and working forward and making progress on it.”
The USO has several programs and services for troops who served in Iraq who are wrestling with the daily impact of PTSD while trying to transition to civilian life.
- The USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.: The USO built the first-of-its-kind Warrior and Family Center on the Fort Belvoir medical campus so troops receiving recurring treatment there could have a place to start their transition with programs like USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshops, art therapy offerings like Combat Paper, and more. Troops there can also use the facility to relax, watch TV or grab a snack.
- Stronger Families Oxygen Seminars: This valuable program brings couples together in a classroom setting to help improve their relationships. Check out this clip for a great story from Stronger Families Executive Director Noel Meador:
- USO Caregivers Conferences: Caregivers of wounded warriors need help, too. The USO has held multiple Caregivers Conferences to address concerns like compassion fatigue and helping kids deal with drastic life changes.
- Adaptive sports: Many recovering service members find solace and regain their confidence on the playing field. The USO supports endeavors like the Marine Corps Trials and Warrior Games. Take a look: