— and the WNY Initiative That Can Help

Tina Caviness

Tina Caviness

by Shannon Traphagen

Navigating minefields, dodging bullets, and living in barracks day after day with the same people is normal—at least it is for our servicemen and women. There they have constant support, a regimented schedule, and a group of people who know exactly what they are experiencing, because they are going through it too.

One would think the scariest thing for a military service member is going into battle. Many however, would say it’s not; the scariest thing is coming home. When veterans come home, trying to tackle the “new normal” is one of the hardest obstacles they will ever face. For those with emotional disorders or physical injuries due to war, that obstacle becomes their Mt. Everest. This journey home can lead vets to alcoholism, domestic violence, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression, just to name a few.

Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) offers caregivers of returning veterans support and assistance to deal with the obstacles they will face. Providing support to the “hero at home,” OFC is part of the Joining Forces Initiative, a global program started by First Lady Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to help give support to veterans returning home, and the people who care for them. OFC is supported and funded by Johnson & Johnson Foundation and the Rosalynn Carter Caregiver Institute. Six sites across the country were awarded grants to kick-start this initiative. Compeer of Greater Buffalo is one of those six.

Responding to the needs of our veterans and their families, Compeer is a partner with the Veterans One-Stop Center, the Mental Health Association, and Vet Court providing community services through The Dwyer Program. In addition to OFC, Compeer’s VET2VET program offers peer support to veterans.

OFC offers veterans and families support from someone who has walked in their shoes. This support includes coaching, home visits, and problem solving by Compeer’s trained veteran volunteers. “This program helps ensure that veterans have access to the community resources they need,” says Sgt. Tina Caviness, veteran, and OFC Program Coordinator. Sgt Caviness was recently awarded the opportunity to share her story at the Rosalynn Carter National Summit in Americus, GA.

“In the military, we live on base, surrounded by those who understand our way of life. Many spouses have similar support during this time. When you come home, you haven’t only lost that familiarity and support, but so has your caregiver,” adds Tina.

In addition to OFC, VET2VET is giving veterans and their families an outlet for emotional healing and connectivity. “It’s peer to peer support and that makes a huge difference in a vet’s healing process,” says Tina.

Wars are fought on many different battle-fronts; for veterans coming home the war they fight is internal. The most important message we can share with our unsung heroes is that they can heal and they don’t have to fight their war alone.

Compeer, along with the Mental Health Association, and the Veteran’s One Stop will be holding a Christmas party for veterans and their families in December. They welcome donations to help support these families during the holiday season. If you would like to know more about this program, call Compeer at 883-3331 or visit www.compeerbuffalo.org. Compeer is located at 135 Delaware Ave., Suite 210, Buffalo NY 14202.