Taking Care of Our Soldiers

By Erika Mahoney

September 18, 2012 Updated Sep 19, 2012 at 10:16 AM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Ken Gould said it himself, "Life isn't easy." And for this Vietnam War veteran, trauma from the sights and sounds he witnessed doesn't make life any easier.

"I ended up with post-traumatic stress disorder, I have had two heart attacks, I'm diabetic," said Gould.

Gould said after his diagnosis, he was assigned to a counselor at the Binghamton Veterans Center.

While at first he wasn't sure whether counseling would help, he took the plunge and said he came up with a new life outlook.

"My wife and daughter have seen a big difference in how I have changed my life," said Gould.

His counselor said that is exactly their mission at the Vet Center, where 50 percent of the staff are combat veterans themselves.

"We provide individual and group counseling and we give veterans the opportunity to talk about whatever they may have gone through that is still on their mind, that is still difficult," said Vet Center Team Leader Allison Miller. "We provide coping skills."

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Last week, the Associated Press reported nearly 100 people commit suicide everyday and that military suicides have increased dramatically this year.

Gould said suicide hasn't crossed his mind, but said more awareness is a must.

Also according to the Associated Press, the Obama administration has recently stepped up initiatives to prevent military suicides on a national level. One such initiative is doubling the number of staff at the national crisis hotline.

"Kudos to him," said Gould. "If a phone goes unanswered or you get put on hold, and that's the difference between basically life and death, then put the people there, pay them."

Gould is playing his role too, saying he feels for the young veterans that are coming home now. He is a member of the not for profit Southern Tier Veterans Support Group, which provides a number of resources to local veterans. Those services include employment, financial, and transportation help among others.

"We are actually losing more of our military people, recently, to suicide than we are to combat, which is horrible," said Southern Tier Veterans Support Group President Al Eaton. "So I think anything we can do, and a lot of what our organization does, is to try to make people aware of the issue."

Counselor Miller said it is important to pay attention to warning signs, get help if necessary, and always be willing to listen in a non-judgmental way.

On Wednesday, Oct. 3, there will be welcome back tribute for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Johnson City at the VFW at 207 Grand Avenue from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Information on veteran counseling, suicide prevention, employment and health care opportunities will be available.

Veteran Center
53 Chenango St.
Binghamton, NY 13901
(607) 722-2393
(Open Monday - Friday; evenings, mornings, weekends by appt.)

Vet Center

Southern Tier Veterans Support Group