Learning to Stand Down
I grew up surrounded by Veterans. My dad’s dad, Grampa Leo, was in the Army and served in WWI. My uncles, Tommy, Greg, and Bernie, were all in the service. My dad, Jim, was in the Navy but was killed when I was two years old.by a drunk driver after dropping me off at my grandparents’ and headed back to the Navy base in Jacksonville, Florida. We were military dependents from that point on.
If it weren’t for survivor’s benefits, I would not have been able to complete college and get a Master’s degree. I wouldn’t be a social worker if not for the financial support I received. Sure, I would have rather had my father around all those years but this made it possible for me to be the independent woman that I am today.
About ten years ago--a little more--I got the opportunity to work with the Veterans Administration. It meant moving back to Alabama from Washington, DC after living there for over 15 years. In so many ways, I feel destined to do this job. It’s like paying back a long overdue student loan and coming home at the same time. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
When I saw the call for stories for the anthology, I jumped at the chance. I had always wanted to write but had stopped when a college professor suggested I put down my pen and never pick it up again. Shortly after moving back to Alabama, I had written a fictional story about an experience I had when I started working at the VA. The story is fiction but the reality is that there are scores of homeless Veterans living in cities, under overpasses, and in the woods across this country. Going to that Stand Down in Mobile, Alabama, opened my eyes to a reality that I find sad and disgusting but not without hope. The VA has great programs to help Veterans with all of the problems that lead to homelessness. Veterans are given the opportunity if they only choose to accept it. We also educate the general public about the issues that face these men and women when they return from their service.
I primarily work with Vietnam Veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. I facilitate groups and do individual therapy. But I still attend the Stand Downs when I get the chance to see the faces in the community of those yet to be helped. I hope this anthology provides education and that the donations help our Veterans. They will always be our heroes in so many ways.
Terry Rozum, LICSW, is a Social Worker with the VA working at the Mobile Outpatient Clinic (MOPC) in the Behavioral Health Services as a therapist.