Editor’s Note: As some of us migrate back to New Orleans and into the school year, the heat of the city is upon us. Yet, there is a cool breeze that comes in the form of all those who help in the city. That’s why we want to highlight, spotlight, and support those who support others. We are dedicating this space for our “Nonprofit Love” shout-outs. First up, the NOLA VFW!
NOLA VFW is a non-profit organization that was created by and meant to serve veterans. The post was founded in 1974 by World War II and Korean War Veterans who lived in the Uptown and Irish Channel Neighborhoods of New Orleans. The organization’s mission is “To foster camaraderie among United States Veterans of overseas conflicts. To serve our veterans, the military, and our communities. To advocate on behalf of all veterans.” The veteran community is one that faces many challenges and I wanted to get a first-hand account of what a vet believes to be the biggest issues at hand. So, I spoke to my uncle Robert.
Robert did two tours of Afghanistan and had a very hard time coming to terms with what he had seen during the war. I saw him struggle with PTSD growing up, and it was something that made a lasting impact on me. Thus, it made him the perfect person to ask these types of questions. In my conversation with Robert, I asked him what he believes the most pressing concerns facing the veteran community are, and I wanted to connect his response to the tools provided by the NOLA VFW in order to combat these obstacles.
He laid out two principal issues.
The first thing he stated is that mental health and getting accustomed back to civilian life is probably the most difficult obstacle veterans face. He explained how war alters the mind and going back to ordinary life can seem like torture for many vets. Many veterans struggle with finding a sense of purpose and identity once they return home. This leads to self-esteem issues because they no longer have the noted title that they used to have. He went on to talk about PTSD and depression. These two are arguably the biggest mental health challenges facing veteran service members. They cause a variety of problems including making suicide rates higher among people who have served in the military, which is something that Robert stressed.
Every day, an average of 17 veterans take their own life. That’s a frightening figure, especially when contrasted with non-veteran suicide rates. Former service members commit suicide at double the rate of non-veterans, and veterans aged 18 to 34 commit suicide at nearly three times the rate of non-veterans.
The second issue that Robert spoke about was that many veterans are very uninformed about what benefits they qualify for. He explained how many veterans have no idea how to apply for healthcare, financial, housing, or education benefits. Additionally, many are confused if they are eligible, or are uninformed about whether such benefits exist. This issue is one that leads me back to NOLA VFW and the resources they provide.
On the Nola VFW website, they offer a tab that is titled “Vet Resources”. In this tab, NOLA VFW offers quick links to resources that include; healthcare, financial + housing, education, employment, social opportunities, discounts for military families, and general resources. Each of these links takes you to a page that offers a number of organizations that are dedicated to serving and providing benefits to veterans in their respective fields. These resources are perfect for helping alleviate Robert’s concerns. For example, in the healthcare link, there is an organization called “Give an Hour”. Give an hour offers no-cost mental health services to military members, veterans, and their loved ones through a network of independently licensed mental health practitioners.
Identifying what resources and benefits are available to veterans is an easy process through this website and needs to have more exposure. These resources do nothing if they are not known about by veterans, which makes it extremely important to ensure that the community is aware of the resources available to them.