NR VFW group looks to give veterans a safe place to talk
On the fourth Tuesday of every month for the last seven months, veterans from around the area converge on New Richmond VFW Post 10818 at 421 S. Green Ave. to sit down and discuss whatever might be on their minds that day.
“The vision we had when we started this was to have a place where guys, and women too, can come together and share camaraderie, stories and anything that is on their minds,” said Post Service Officer Gary Christian. “It is all confidential and any thing that comes into BOBS stays right here. Confidentiality is a big thing for us. Hopefully over time, these guys will come to trust each other.”
The group is called Band of Brothers and Sisters, or BOBS for short, and is a place where any veteran who needs to talk about what they are going through can come and share with other veterans who have most likely been through what they have, or at least something similar.
“The idea for BOBS came to us when we started to think about the fact that when men and women come home there is a pretty tough adjustment for them to get back to civilian life,” said past VFW Commander Dave Green. “There are PTSD issues, drinking problems, drug problems and a lot of other things. I felt that when men and women are in high school you have the teachers looking after you, then in the military you have a sergeant taking care of them, but when they come home people think that they must be pretty grown up. But now there is an adjustment where that person has to take care of themselves and deal with all the issues of coming home.”
The group’s mission statement is: Comfort, Consultation, Confidentiality Through Camaraderie.
“A lot of guys are coming home these days and they have families already when they are deployed,” Christian said. “A lot of times they don’t expect what they come back to. They come home to a family that is used to getting along without them. They come back, especially with guys, they are no longer in charge like they are used to. That can be hard to deal with.”
The meetings are open forums where veterans can sit back and relax while talking about their problems. According to Christian, there are no minutes taken and names are optional.
Right now, we get together once a month, but that is subject to change because we are willing to make it more often than that if we feel it will help,” Christian said. “It is a good sign that we are seeing people ask if we can do this more often.”
BOBS also helps veterans by using the VFW’s connections in the job market to help recently returned veterans find employment.
“That is the other thing we help with in BOBS, not just the PTSD part of it, but helping people have a place to network and find work,” said VFW Post 10818 member Matt Mooi. “Part of the transition process is finding yourself a job and getting back up on the horse.”
The thing Mooi enjoys most about the BOBS meetings is that he can just be himself and tell stories about his experiences to people who actually understand where he is coming from and what he has been through because, most likely, they have been through it too.
“At BOBS, you can sit and tell stories that other people might not necessarily get and they know what you are thinking,” Mooi said. “How do you talk to somebody who has no clue what you have been through or what you are talking about? People don’t understand what you are talking about at all or get how things are funny to us. You can just sit and tell the stories and not get looked at like you are crazy.”
For Green, Christian and the other leaders of VFW Post 10818, helping the younger veterans who are struggling with PTSD as well as other issues is the best part of being involved with BOBS.
“If we can help one veteran over five years it is well worth the effort,” Green said. “We hope this group can help change somebody's life and make a difference. We could also maybe start something similar for the families of veterans as well down the road.”
Band of Brothers and Sisters
When: The fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.
What: We are here to just listen and talk to. We are a group or, if you will, a band of veterans who have banded together to meet once a month to sit down in an open forum and just discuss whatever might be on our minds on that particular day.
Why: To share in camaraderie, to gain one another’s trust, to get whatever may be troubling us off our chests and to share in confidence any issues that may be affecting our personal lives or the lives of friends or loved ones.
Gained from meetings: Genuine camaraderie, confidential conversation with other veterans that have, in a lot of cases, been in the same place. Our mission statement is: Comfort, Consolation, Confidentiality Through Camaraderie (CCCTC).
Who can attend: Simply put, any veteran.
Where: At the VFW Post 10818, 421 S. Green Ave., New Richmond
I signed my enlistment contract with the Marines my senior year of high school at the age of 17. My parents had to sign as well because of my age. In June of 2002, I left for boot camp, two days after graduating high school, and the day after my 18th birthday.
After boot camp I went to infantry training and then a year or so of training with my reserve unit before being activated in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and serving in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, an area known at the time as The Triangle of Death. I was in the country during the first free Iraqi elections, one of the more violent portions during the now 10-plus year history of our involvement there.
After it all, the excitement of coming home was overwhelming, but as that fades, the transition back to civilian life begins, for many of us, a difficult process. Although not without a few bumps in the road, I feel I have transitioned relatively well back to civilian life. I largely believe this was due to being deployed a second time, and being able to spend that deployment with some of the same guys I was with the first time, and just talking to them about our experiences. I got out of the Marines after serving six years, having been through two tours in Iraq and operating in sub-Saharan Niger, Africa. The transition though is a process that is without a real end, and for too many veterans, their end of service comes almost too soon, leaving them in the middle of this process without the support structure I had.
This past June I moved to New Richmond for a new job, leaving my old VFW post in Steger, Ill., and joined post 10818 here in town. Recently I attended BOBS or Band of Brothers and Sisters, the post’s monthly meeting for vets in all stages of transition. It is for veterans of every conflict, of every age, and all branches of service. There is no real structure, just veterans talking and helping each other and the only rule is confidentiality.
BOBS is a catch-all, as it truly needs to be. The problems facing our returning troops are many and varied, and the aim of BOBS is to pool our shared knowledge and experience to tackle these problems and issues, from employment, and networking, to PTSD issues, war stories and tall tales and comradeship. There is no judgment, no political correctness, no rules, no minutes kept, no quarrels or boundaries. There is no way for civilian organizations, or even the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the kind of support and level of support BOBS can. Although no civilian will understand this next portion, they are not the intended audience. BOBS is the smoke pit and the E-club. It is the unit, the platoon, the squad, the section, that vets can come to after their service has ended.
While the stories are varied, the toll each man or woman’s experience takes is ultimately the same. We now all share the task of making the transition to civilian life while carrying the weight of war time with us each and every day.
BOBS is open to all veterans, of any conflict, regardless of status or membership. For information, interested veterans can call the post at 715-246-0226, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the post Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9 a.m. to noon for coffee. The post is located inside the Community Commons, west side of the building, door #10. 421 S. Green Ave., New Richmond.
-- Matt Mooi, Corporal, USMC (2002-08)