Honoring those who have served our country in the most selfless way during Military Appreciation Month, local organizations are finding ways to help them reestablish themselves in our community.
Fontaine Glenn was live in the newsroom with more.
In honor of Military Appreciation Month and Mental Health Month, we took a look at the services veterans have here in Erie as they find their way back into everyday life after serving.
Scott Kessler, an army veteran, is using his experience to propel fellow veterans forward to help them navigate back into civilian life.
“One of the things about me is I’m so passionate about this job, because like many other veterans, I was in a very dark place in my life and if it wasn’t for the VA and the staff that are here, I would not be here at all today,” said Ronald “Scott” Kessler, peer support specialist, Erie VA Medical Center.
At the Erie VA Medical Center, the Behavioral Health Clinic assists veterans suffering with PTSD, grief, trauma, or substance abuse.
“We have a team of providers, and we provide access to services like detox, residential treatment, I also provide individual therapy and conduct group therapy sessions,” said Aaron Wismar, licensed professional mental health counselor, Erie VA Medical Center.
Many veterans suffering from mental health disorders like depression find themselves homeless, and a local nonprofit “Embracing Our Veterans” is trying to find ways to give each veteran a home.
“When they are homeless, when they do not have a job, which we help them connect with jobs, that makes that even worse,” said Tina Schiefelbein, founder/president, Embracing Our Veterans.
While monetary donations are always appreciated, doing things such as volunteering can improve a veterans quality of life after serving our country.
Embracing Our Veterans collects gently used furniture to give to veterans starting out after serving. The furniture will go directly to veterans in need.
“If you have a dresser or a bed, a table and chairs that you’re no longer using, and it’s workable, it’s not damaged, we actually come pick it up and repurpose that for a veteran,” said Schiefelbein.
Army Veteran Kessler says he hopes he can help as many veterans as he can to stay alive and find their way after the military.
“Once they ask for help, I just give them that little glimmer of hope, just enough to get them to keep coming. In time, everyone can heal, it just takes time and you actually wanting to heal,” said Kessler.
Erie VAMC Behavioral Health Clinic — 814-860-2038
Veterans Crisis Line — 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
Vets4Warriors Hotline — 1-855-838-8255 (Excellent for Veterans who need to talk, yet are not in crisis; known as a peer-led Veteran warmline)
Embrace Our Veterans (814) 636-1950