WATCH: Homeless Vet Talks About What’s Important to Him

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Through DVNF’s Health & Comfort program, the items that we send to stand down events to support homeless, low-income, and disabled veterans make a bigger difference than many might realize.

Wayne Stewart, a homeless Navy veteran in DC, spoke with us about his experience as a homeless vet, and which supplies that DVNF sent made the biggest difference.

“Toiletries! Because when a person is clean, looks good, smells good, they have a tendency to feel better about themselves.” 

“I would like to say ‘thank you’ to all of you [DVNF donors] – without your services, without your kind gestures and your kind thoughts, trust and believe me – it would be much harder for us. Thank you, DVNF!”

Countless veterans are helped through the Health & Comfort program, and each time a donor gives, we’re able to provide critically needed items – like toiletries – to veterans like Wayne throughout the year.

DVNF Veteran Employee Spotlight: John Paruch

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As part of DVNF’s commitment to serving the men and women who have stood in our defense, we know how important it is to have team members who have been in their shoes. The following story gives some background on one of the veterans working at DVNF.

John Paruch takes a photo with a veteran at the 2016 Wheelchair Games

John Paruch, DVNF’s Director of Corporate Sponsorships and Foundation Relations, has been with the organization since 2015. John, like so many veterans, is humble by nature.

“I always say I was a veteran in the loosest sense of the word. I didn’t serve during any conflict, and really didn’t do anything very significant.”

Many veterans often express this same sentiment, but it’s important for them to remember that willingly putting your life on the line – regardless of the presence of conflict or not – is something that should be admired and respected.

John, originally from the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Michigan, joined the Navy when he was 17. He was was a Radar Operator onboard a couple different destroyers. The first was a WWII Class Destroyer, DD 866, the USS Cone. Then, after extensive intelligence and naval warfare training, he was sent to a Guided Missile Destroyer, DDG 39, the USS MacDonough. His home base was in Charleston, SC and the longest cruises he was on were for about a month. Both of them included stops at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

John came from a modest background as a kid. He wanted to go to college, and he joined the Navy for the opportunity to make that dream a reality. 

Another motivation for him to enlist was his desire to see the world. However, he admitted, “I didn’t see much of it, but traveling to some of the Caribbean Islands was a big thrill for me.”

John, referring to his service as it related to combat, said that he felt fortunate to have done so little, but to have received so much in return. Instead, he felt a sense of obligation to his fellow veterans.

“I like helping our veterans that did so much more than I did, and were injured or disabled as a result. I feel it’s the least I can do and think all Americans should help those who have made those sacrifices.” 

After completion of his service in the Navy, John went to college and got his degree from Michigan State University, and he said that his time in the military had a lasting effect on him. He went to college a more mature individual, having learned some valuable life lessons which made him a better student.

When asked what advice he would give to a veteran transitioning into civilian life, he said, “Try to use the discipline you were taught in the military to make you a better worker, student, husband, father, or whatever it is you are doing at any time in your life.”

John is as humble as he is friendly, and has a genuine desire to serve others. DVNF is thrilled to have him on our staff, and we all want to thank him for his service – even if he thinks that appreciation isn’t warranted.

WATCH: Veteran Discusses His Experience with PTSD and Drinking

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Drinking is a common activity that is usually ingrained in the military experience. But what happens when drinking is used as a self-medicating coping mechanism? Things can spiral out of control in a hurry.

Just listen to this Marine veteran’s experience with drinking.

When I drank, got drunk, you know, all the anxiety, Depression, my purpose, the betrayal – all that, it went out the window …

For the next 3 years I was drunk probably – drunk or hung over 75 percent of the time. So when I went out I couldn’t just have one … and that caused problems.

For veterans struggling with PTSD, drinking might feel like a temporary solution to what you’re going through, but it isn’t a solution at all. If drinking has become a problem for you, and you’re ready to take control of your life, please check out some of the VA’s resources for getting the help you need.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

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April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and this is an issue that is especially relevant to so many veterans. There are many reasons veterans in particular can often be prone to misusing alcohol.

One aspect that increases the likelihood of a veteran misusing alcohol is that they are often predisposed to it as a part of their military experience. In fact, did you know that medical expenses related to alcohol use by military personnel average nearly $425 million per year?1

Perhaps alcohol is used as a bonding tool or even a team-building exercise, or maybe for others, it’s seen as an escape route from handling a difficult experience. Either way, it’s something that most service members are familiar with before they even leave the military.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism demonstrates just how prevalent the alcohol culture is for military personnel:

Frequent heavy drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks on one or more occasions per week, occurs among a substantial proportion of U.S. military personnel and varies as a function of military demographic characteristics. In a large-scale survey, Bray and Hourani (2005) found that the prevalence of frequent heavy drinking in the military from 1980 through 2005 ranged from 15 to 20 percent.2

15 to 20 percent.

But what happens once somebody leaves the military? The difficulty of this transition is well documented, and it affects most veterans in some way or another. Veterans are thrust into a very different world as civilians, and must learn to adapt to a life that is very different from the one they have known during their service.

Veterans have to find a job based on a resume from military service that’s filled with terms civilians can’t comprehend, they’re forced to find an identity that isn’t based on rank or MOS, and for some, they have to come to terms with the mental effects of combat.

In fact, according to the NIAAA, combat and alcohol abuse have a very strong correlation.

In one population-based study of 88,235 veterans returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Milliken and colleagues (2007) found that 12 to 15 percent of veterans endorsed problematic alcohol use in the 3 to 6 months following their return from combat. These data suggest that alcohol misuse occurs among a substantial number of veterans who are exposed to combat-related traumatic stress and highlight the importance of understanding the relationships between stressful military experiences (e.g., combat and military sexual trauma) and alcohol misuse.3

Not only that, but 60 to 80 percent of Vietnam veterans seeking treatment for PTSD have an alcohol use problem as well, according to the VA.

It doesn’t seem surprising then, that veterans often turn to a familiar substance that was ingrained in their military experience – alcohol.

Alcohol is often used to self-medicate, and to “numb” the painful thoughts and feelings associated with mental trauma. However, this is a double-edged sword, because while alcohol may limit one from having to relive the emotional pain of a traumatic experience, it also encourages avoidance. This avoidance doesn’t help solve the problem, it usually makes it worse.

 

This month, DVNF wants to help raise awareness of the effects alcohol has on veterans – not only veterans in transition, but also veterans with PTSD and homeless veterans who are especially prone to substance abuse.

Please help us spread the word this April. We want to make sure that the men and women who served in our defense are equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to seek treatment. There’s no shame in getting help, and for those suffering from a substance abuse problem, treatment can ultimately save your life!

Please visit the VA’s Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program for more information on getting help.


Sources

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arcr344/401-407.htm

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/problems/ptsd-alcohol-use.asp