WEST ALLIS (WITI) — When combat troops come home, they return to government benefits, support from non-profit organizations and others. However, oftentimes they are not the only ones who need assistance. Friends and family members of veterans can also feel the effects of war but without the same kind of support. A Milwaukee organization is working to bridge the gap.
Reginald Holton, called Reggie by friends and family members, is a former U.S. Marine now dealing with the effects of war. He first enlisted in 2000 when he was 17, having just graduated from Milwaukee’s John Marshall High School.
“I was a pretty good shot so I went to sniper school. From there I did countless missions — some things I don’t like talking about,” Holton said.
It wasn’t long after landing in the war zone something happened that would change Holton’s life forever.
“I saw my best friend. He blew his head off with an M16, so it wasn’t too pleasant for me,” Holton said.
It is one of many traumatic experiences he went through. In March of 2002, while still in the Marines, Holton tried to kill himself. After that, his command let him go.
It wasn’t until Holton found a place called Veteran Quest a decade later that he began to successfully work through the effects of combat.
Veteran Quest is tucked away on a quiet neighborhood street in West Allis. Inside is a group devoted to veterans and their families.
Kathy Anderson helped found Veteran Quest two years ago. She had been a trauma counselor at another non-profit organization. There she helped veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. At the same time she found their families were also being affected yet had nowhere to go. Veteran Quest was a way to provide counseling to more than just veterans.
“People need to understand what is happening to their loved one. Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, cousin, everybody is impacted by the experience of one veteran,” Anderson said.
Anderson says it is often a lack of understanding that causes many of the family issues.
“Find out what’s post-traumatic stress disorder. What is my dad or my brother dealing with? What is my husband dealing with?” Anderson said.
Holton and his family aren’t the only ones being helped by Veteran Quest. For many older vets, PTSD was only recently identified.
For World War II vets like Gordon Pederson, PTSD was discovered nearly four decades after he experienced the trauma of war, though his issues continue.
Yet, there is hope in places like Veteran Quest. Through a multitude of programs, Anderson and her team try to find what works for everyone that walks through their door.
Holton says these programs have helped him and his wife work through the stresses of PTSD. Just a few months ago, the couple welcomed a baby girl into their lives and have already introduced her to Veteran Quest.
“We have a lot of stories of success and people that are back out there, living a good life and marriages that did not come apart. People that did not kill themselves. People that are not homeless,” Anderson said.
Veteran Quest provides its services without any charge to its clients. They keep their doors open primarily through donations and what insurance payments they can gather.
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