Veterans of all ages are coming together to share stories, listen, and help one another in ways that encourage positive change all around. Senior citizen veterans have much to offer in this realm.
A lot of things in life take courage. Being a soldier is up there among the most iconic ways to show courage of course, but soldiers who come home often have to find another type of strength, and that’s the courage to speak up about their experiences in war. For some, that’s a matter of healing, especially when they suffer from some sort of trauma, such as PTSD.
Surprisingly, one formula for healing that’s proving to be very successful is when younger vets are able to come together with senior citizen veterans to share stories, to do some listening, and learn.
Sharing Stories: Benefits for Everyone
One of the most common obstacles to healing after trauma is an unwillingness to talk about experiences. This is especially true in the veteran community, where pressure to be strong and resilient can be intense.
But one of the best ways to become even more resilient, according to Sherry Hamby Ph.D, is by sharing your story. She advocates writing autobiographical stories, but the concept is the same: sharing, no matter what form (verbal or written), helps improve psychological and even physical health.
It’s probably for that reason that the Veterans Health Administration maintains, on its website, that elderly veterans can receive geriatric and long term care programs at home, at VA medical centers, or in the community. Younger vets can learn from older vets that PTSD can be treated, there are resources, and that it’s important never to give up.
Sharing Helps Senior Citizen Veterans, Too
One sad fact of life is that as we age, we miss out on a lot of socialization. Especially after retirement, those social networks start to run thin and it’s very easy to lose touch.
That’s true of everyone, but for vets that can be particularly difficult, especially if they’re still dealing with long-term PTSD or other service-related issues. Even after all those years, some memories are still very painful.
So it makes sense that when veterans of all ages come together to share their stories, there are healing benefits on both sides of the conversation.
One heartwarming example of this is the story of Gus Allbritton, a Vietnam veteran who still suffers from PTSD. He makes daily appearances at the Dublin VA to do what he can to help. A lot of that entails just talking over coffee. He does it for the younger vets, and encourages them to use the VA as their resource and not to give up. As a side benefit, he knows it helps him, too. He’s already helped one younger vet, who had a severe case of PTSD…
“I’m in my 60s and he’s in his 20s, but we can still relate to each other because we’re Veterans. He fought in the desert and I fought in the jungle, but war is war, and PTSD is PTSD. We’re brothers.”
-Gus Allbritton, Vietnam Veteran
Older Generation to the Younger Generation
Having been there, senior citizen veterans are perfectly equipped to help the younger generation of veterans cope with the aftermath of combat experience. And whether it’s their job or they do this on a volunteer basis, they benefit as well.
Another example is of our own board chairman, Frank Spady. As a senior citizen and Vietnam veterans he took a young veteran under his wing. Their interactions have helped both of them. Click here to read their story.
This way of healing is relatively new, and perhaps even controversial but it’s growing and with each case of sharing stories across the generations, it seems there’s more and more evidence it’s working.
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The worst part of war should not be coming home.