Soldiers' Challenges Once They Return Home

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This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Soldiers battling terrorists on the streets of Iraq, weeding them out city-by-city, block-by-block. For now, their day-to-day lives focused on fighting the war on terror. But they'll face another battle when it's time to go home. Heather Nauert looks at the challenges of readjusting to civilian life.


Well, our guest served in Iraq as an Army reservist. And when he came home to the United States, he began helping other vets as a counselor. He runs private and group meetings for fellow vets where they can talk about the war and the changes they face once they come home.

Jay White's a readjustment counselor, and he joins us from Hartford.

Jay, what are some of the biggest challenges that our troops just coming home from war are facing?


First of all, a lot of the troops, especially in the New England area where I work, are Reservists, National Guardsmen, and, of course, you do have active duty, too. But when you go from an environment like Iraq or Afghanistan, and stay there for an extended amount of time, I think one of the biggest things you find is that when you get back you need to deal with, you know, getting readjusted back to your regular life, going back to work, dealing with your family, your wife, your husband, your children. So the biggest issue coming home really is just making that readjustment.

NAUERT: Trying to assimilate back into your own life, it sounds like. I imagine it's pretty tough for them — for you to get them to consider coming in and talking. Because lots of these folks are facing some pretty tough jobs that they're doing overseas.

How do you get them to agree to come in and talk about the changes that they've seen once they come home?

WHITE: Well, actually, Heather, that is one of the biggest obstacles probably. We do a lot of the outreach, we go out and make presentations and try to erase a lot of the factors that or the excuse that is somebody might have as to why they go get help. And also, try to make them feel a little more comfortable.

Understand that it's not just them who have an issue. You want to try to let them know that, you know, there's a big stigma attached to going to get help. You want to let them know that coming back and making readjustments, depending on what ever you saw, is such a natural thing that everyone needs to do. So we try to erase some of those obstacles, let them know that it's confidential.

NAUERT: Well, that is one interesting area, because a lot of folks that we have spoken with have said that they're concerned that it's going to go on their record. Does it?

WHITE: Well, if they come in they have DD-214, it's honorable, and it does not go on their record. We at the vet center keep everything fully confidential. There's no way anybody would want to speak about anything privately if they felt like there was some way that it was going to affect their military standing or their job, especially if they work in the public eye. Confidentiality is the building block, really, for the vet center.

NAUERT: Sure, that's incredibly important. And do they pay you anything to come in and talk to you?

And we should tell folks that these services are available across the country. You just happen to be with a veterans center in the Hartford, Connecticut, area. There are hundreds of them, though, across the country. I'm afraid I just lost my train of thought there.

WHITE: Yes, there are 206. Now, to come in, actually, it's free. You know, with DD-214, you earned it, you were in-country, and you have a form that shows that you were there, combat, that you've earned it. For the rest of your life you never have to pay. So...

NAUERT: And let me just ask you real quickly, is there anything that the American public can do to help guys and gals coming back from the war better assimilate back to their old ways?

WHITE: Well, you know, as this conflict, war, whatever you want to call it, has gone on, more and more people know somebody who was or is involved with Iraq. You can definitely help out their families; help them out in whatever way you can.

NAUERT: All right, Jay. Thanks a lot. We're going to have to leave it there. Appreciate your time.

WHITE: All right. Thank you, Heather.

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