Veterans Reintegration10/06/09 Mark Anderson
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The University of South Florida held a forum on the issues surrounding the integration of veterans back into society this morning. Retired U.S. Marine Corps General Martin Steele presented his views on the challenges facing returning veterans.
General Steele started his military career as a private in Vietnam, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General, and subsequently served as President and CEO of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York City. Steele said that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are often returning to society after extended tours of duty, and many are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or brain trauma, and need help in successfully transitioning from war to a job.
Post traumatic stress disorder can develop after exposure to an ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Symptoms may include persistent memories of the ordeal, sleep problems, and feelings of detachment or numbness. Around 8% of the general population experiences the disorder, but Steele noted that 35% of returning war veterans have the disorder.
After a bomb blast killed 20 Ohio soldiers in Iraq, Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner stepped in to help, initially with the families and victims of the blast, and later to other returning Marines.
Steele said that Lerner funded 20 reintegration classes from 2006 to 2008, and that several hundred ex Marines were successful in returning to a job, through a combination of counseling and coaching for themselves and their family members.
Steele said that Lerner has since suffered major financial losses in the economic downturn, and has stopped funding the program.. He is currently working with numerous governmental agencies and corporations seeking to restart the program, and is optimistic about getting the program going again.