NYAPRS Note: Here’s some more details on the recently approved state allocation to enhance Vet Peer Support services that will funnel approximately $200,000 each to Suffolk, Jefferson, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. Special thanks for this new initiative are due to the dedicated efforts of John Javis from the MHA of Nassau County.
Suffolk Program Supports Vets With PTSD
By Paul Larocco Newsday April 1, 2012
As they battled post-traumatic stress disorder, Army veterans Joseph Dwyer and John Jennings had plenty of concerned family and friends.
Still, there were few people the Long Island natives could actually talk to — few fellow war-scarred service members able to break through.
Both died from accidental drug overdoses, and Sunday, their loved ones gathered at a Sayville American Legion post to back a new program creating support groups for veterans with PTSD.
“Hopefully people won’t have to go through what Joe did,” said Brian Dwyer, whose brother, originally of Mount Sinai, died in North Carolina in 2008. “The whole system has just been overwhelmed.”
As part of the state budget approved last week, Suffolk is one of four counties getting $200,000 to set up the Pfc. Joseph Dwyer Program, in which eight to 10 veterans diagnosed with PTSD or traumatic brain injury — under a professional’s supervision — will help each other cope.
The idea for the program grew out of a series of meetings of the John P. Jennings Veterans’ Advisory Panel, convened last year by Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), an Iraq War veteran. Jennings, 34, an Army National Guard lieutenant, returned from Iraq in 2005 and died at his Calverton home in January 2011.
“A lot of veterans who suffer from PTSD have an added challenge of not knowing where to go for help,” Zeldin said.
Jennings’ fiance, Hatty Baldwin, said he would have appreciated such a program.
“It’s very isolating to be a returning veteran,” she said. “They go from a situation where there’s nothing but brotherhood and camaraderie, and then they go home and that group is gone.”
Zeldin said Suffolk’s $200,000 would go to logistic and administrative costs. Jefferson, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties will also start programs.
Joseph Dwyer, who returned from Iraq in 2003, became a worldwide face of the war when his rescue of a child in the early days of combat was captured in a famous photograph. His PTSD-fueled troubles, including shooting up a Texas apartment in 2005, were later well documented.
With the launch of support groups in his name, friends hope his legacy will again be connected with helping people.
“As a nation and state, we all let him down,” said Chris Delaney, 38, a Lindenhurst resident and family friend of Dwyer’s. “Hopefully this can help us turn his story back into a heroic tale.”
With Ted Phillips