Undoubtedly, it’s valuable to have someone who’s willing to listen to you talk about your troubles. But to have a complete stranger be willing to be there for you any time of day or night? That’s priceless.
In Boise, Idaho, a group of extraordinary volunteers makes themselves available to distressed vets suffering from PTSD — whenever they need someone to talk to and for however long it takes. Anytime police in Boise encounter veterans who are having substance abuse issues, are suicidal, or are experiencing other grave problems, they call Marnie Bernard, the founder of Idaho Veterans Network , and two other veteran-volunteers, who talk the vet through his or her trauma. “I have upon occasion, yes, gone and sat with someone who was either cutting or having a really hard time. Once we get them better, we plug them in to the system that’s set up for them,” Bernard told Karen Zatkulak of KTVB. “We watch them grow, usually within a couple weeks of joining us. They aren’t as scared anymore. They don’t have their backs against the wall. They realize they are with people who understand them.”
In addition to providing an open ear, the The Idaho Veterans Network sponsors weekly meetings for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, offers legal advocacy for veterans who’ve run into trouble with the law due to their PTSD or traumatic brain injury, and throws events that get isolated veterans out of the house to socialize (via hunting and fishing expeditions or an annual racing night at the Meridian Speedway that drew about 5,000 vets and their families last year).
Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson said that his officers are encountering more and more distressed veterans. “It seems like we are getting about one a week.” He believes the police’s partnership with The Idaho Veterans Network has been invaluable. “I’m real proud that over the course of the last three years that we have saved somewhere around 15 lives in our community.”