By Stanley Campbell
Another war, another batch of wounded veterans. When will we ever learn?
My friend (and hero) Ray Parrish counsels these guys and gals not only upon their return, but sometimes while they are in the military, and even while they’re in a combat zone. I’m inviting this veterans’ counselor to speak in Rockford Thursday, Nov. 18.
Ray says: “It looks like we need to prepare for the long run. The need for specialized help to GIs, vets and their families WILL continue for the foreseeable future, and is already overwhelming us. So, we need to increase our professional counseling staff to meet immediate and future demands.”
He’s also calling for more volunteer counselors to step forward: “all who will be working (and greatly benefiting from) doing in-person vet counseling in their office, at Stand Downs, nursing homes and on the street. Let’s find volunteers nationwide to provide both direct support for vets and families, and also as a link for professionals to support the local efforts on VA claims, peer counseling and psych treatment and evaluations.”
Parrish will lead a discussion about the needs of the veterans, especially returning from combat in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Thursday, Nov. 18, beginning at 7 p.m. Program is free and open to the public, and is hosted by Christ United Methodist Church, 4509 Highcrest Road, at the corner of North Alpine. That’s the beautiful church just south of Edgebrook Shopping Center. The entrance is the south door No. 6, then look for the dining room.
Parrish trains accredited VA claims agents in Chicago who can be representatives in VA disability, pension and survivors’ claims. “We work with people from around the country to reach out to vets who can’t find help from anyone else; incarcerated vets and those with less-than-honorable military discharges,” Parrish said.
Parrish also helps vets with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries to get them proper evaluation and treatment while in the military and after discharge, and support peer counseling efforts for vets and their families.
“We’re best suited and prepared to do this for both the veterans and their families,” Parrish said. “From the counseling POV, our priority is getting appropriate treatment to every veteran and family member. We need more therapy groups for spouses/loved ones and women vets and screening and tele-training mental health professionals nationwide.”
Ray works with several veteran peer counseling programs in Chicago. He gets entitlement to VA health care and disability compensation benefits for the veterans whom no one else is helping: the homeless, hopeless and helpless; or those with PTSD so severe they got bad discharges or prison; or vets who can’t stand going to the VA because it represents the government that put them through hell; or those whose primary concern is centered around what they had to do to survive; or those vets bothered by the morality or the legitimacy of the wars and have had those issues dismissed by military and VA docs.
Parrish takes referrals from several websites, the GI Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and many veterans and peace groups. He hosts a Chicago cable TV show—episodes can be found at veteranshelpingveterans.us—where the main attempts are to help keep soldiers disabled by PTSD from being redelpoyed to combat, especially after their second tour.
The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call Rockford Urban Ministries, the sponsor of the program, at (815) 964-7111.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Nov. 10-16, 2010 issue