Let Us Be Your Lifeline

Sharon Schlerf assisted by her husband, Mike Newcomb, US Army Veteran

Let us be your Lifeline. Why? Because we are members of the military community.

Across the nation last week, many Veterans were thanked for their services over the history of our country. Our praises for their dedication and sacrifice are public and genuine but too often it ends until another year, another Veterans Day arrives.

In between Memorial Day and Veterans Day ‘holidays’, there are millions of service members, veterans and families who need support services, in many ways that most civilians wouldn’t understand.

Not every veteran automatically receives medical care (or dental/vision) upon their end of service term.

Not every veteran automatically receives monthly benefits in either disability or retirement income.

Not every veteran automatically receives ‘GI Bill’ education benefits.

Not every veteran automatically receives new ‘vocational workforce development job training’ when their duty assignment no longer applies to ‘current’ industry skills.

Not every veteran automatically receives the transition education or assistive services to the civilian community for housing – on post housing or government bases as no longer an option – with a myriad of decisions demanded in a short period of time.

While civilians are accustomed to ‘independence’ and choices, many choices are denied to service members until they retire or are discharged and become ‘veterans’.

For many civilians there is little understanding that day-to-day life and career expectations for the U.S. Armed Forces is so unlike civilian life, 1) Service Members are legally obligated to serve a specific amount of time (some renewable) and can’t ‘change their minds’, quit or decide they don’t like their job, 2) Service Members are sent all over the country and world (often without their families) and cannot return ‘when they want to’, 3) Service Members are trained and required from the beginning, BASIC TRAINING, to defend themselves and others, even to the point of death

Though law enforcement, firemen, and emergency responders are in the ‘line of fire’ or facing dangerous situations every day, it is only Service Members who can’t simply resign, not show up, or quit without serious repercussions (peer pressure) and disciplinary actions (Article 15) as a result.

Remember also, this is all based on a ‘volunteer’ status for all Armed Forces members.

After 18 years of war (Post 9/11), many of our service members and veterans are feeling the consequences of countless battles, not just for themselves but for the welfare of the men & women in their unit, on their ship or crewing their aircraft. While many active duty serve stateside, away from active war zones, they know that the equipment, weapons, food, temporary shelters, transportation, and other supplies are supremely important to the lives of their brethren in harm’s way. Roles could easily have been reversed, and they know that all too well.

Rarely does this degree of consequence, living or demise, weigh as heavy in a civilian role.

Over the last years, multiple deployments have taken their toll, on them, families, extended relatives and friends, communities, churches and workplaces. Even after nearly two decades of war and conflict our home front community institutions struggle with how to successfully transition service members, becoming veterans, back into the ‘Community’ at large. There are many Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s) & Military Branch programs for ‘re-entry’ that work reasonably well, when needs are few and family/social support systems are strong.

Yet for many, challenges are not simple nor are their support system strong. The ‘combat wounded’ contend with medical issues and physical limitations that wars with their robust independent self-concept. Long-certain ideals of justice and fair play held in minds and emotions are bent or broken. In the worst of cases, the spirit (bedrock ideals of meaning & purpose) is injured, in need of intensive care. While surgery and medications can restore the body and therapy answer some of the questions of the mind and emotions, who can truly listen and understand the ‘mission mindset’ and the existential terror of the battlefield?

Most family and friends are sincere yet cannot understand. Healthcare provider’s experiences may also be limited and restricted to narrow institutional policies. So where is the intensive care for spirit, mind and emotion?

Peer-to-Peer Support Services (Certified Peer Support Specialists) also known as Peer Coaches, or Peer Navigators, are those service members, veterans, and family members who have shared experience, knowledge and training to effectively help others achieve ‘quality of life’ again. Peers assist with everything from wellness tools, daily maintenance plans, managing trauma and other ‘soul’ challenges. Peer Specialists coordinate the building of a trusted support team with family and friends, showing them how to best assist their loved ones, and so much more.

That’s the mission of Beacon Institute: Veteran Pathways Home. We are the ‘Lifeline’ for many, much different than the ‘Crisis Call or Hotline’ (also important resources), because we train peers as professionals, who serve to support Service Members, Veterans and Families (SMVF) with US DHHS SAMHSA evidence-based proven beneficial, ‘curriculum’ and resources branded, with permission, “Courage to Change”.

Courage to Change is an entire system of action planning for wellness, resiliency, crisis prevention as well as teaching recovery ‘tools’ for adjusting to any of life’s challenges. This peer-to-peer approach was pioneered in the civilian community so is adaptable to many of life’s challenges common to everyone: chronic health issues, sudden illness and treatment, loss of loved one, divorce, auto-accidents, disaster victims, and more –but we specialize in SMVF because we are and have been military service or connect.

With new facilities opening ‘Warrior Way Wellness Center’ in Williamsburg VA, it’s our first of seven centers planned around the country. With its opening, we are establishing a database network of resources across the country, veteran peers who can assist with online service delivery, and most of all an 800 toll free call center “Lifeline” where resources can be requested, 24/7 talking to ‘a Peer’. This is a ‘thank you’ that continues every day.

When you’re not sure who to call or where, needing assistance with body, soul or spiritual support, let us be your ‘Lifeline’.


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