An increasing number of military veterans will return home to Utah during the holidays. An organization focused on veterans is working to help family members manage what can be a difficult transition.
Allison Jaslow is executive director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She is a former army captain who served two combat deployments in Iraq and is one of the nation’s leading voices and advocates for the post-9/11 generation of veterans.
Jaslow said the dangers of war are somewhat easy for the average American to understand, especially when post-combat injuries are visible.
“It’s the mental health issues,” Jaslow said. “Whether it’s because of a traumatic brain injury or PTSD, that are the invisible wounds of war that we don’t always know are existing and that sneak up at unexpected times.”
Veterans face a variety of setbacks during the war. Karen Cierzan, the operations director of Behavioral Health Clinical Operations with the Cigna Corporation, said more problems begin when soldiers come.
“The thing that we see over and over tend to be around just the transition and life being more difficult than they expected it to be,” Cierzan said.
Finding jobs, transportation, dealing with changes at home and coping with mental health challenges is proving to be too much for many veterans according to Cierzan.
“Unfortunately, 20 veterans of all generations are dying by suicide every single day,” Jaslow said. “It’s something to continue to address and then we also need to pay special attention to the women veteran population, which is the largest growing segment of the veteran population. Dealing with unique challenges that are illustrated by statistics like women veterans who are unfortunately taking their own lives at 250 percent the rate of civilian women, but the problem is clear and we have got to aggressively address it.”
Many veterans don’t ask for help, Jaslow said. It’s important for them and their friends and family to know there are resources for every aspect of the transition; from employment, to childcare and mental health professionals.
“I think all of us understanding that not every veteran is as strong as you think a warrior is,” Jaslow said. “Not every veteran comes from a happy family, but wanting each of them to be supported in the best way possible for their unique needs in honor of their sacrifice is something that I hope unites us as a nation.”