By Steven Shapiro
As the nation pauses to remember its veterans, Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga examines the toll the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken on the men and women who have served there.
Among them is former Army specialist Jamuel Breeze, who served two tours in Iraq. He was just 18 years old when he deployed the first time. He says the stress of war and being away from home ultimately caught up with him.
“Being there, I’m like, wow, I’m in the Middle East, these people want to kill us. I’m too young for all of this.”
Breeze is one of many veterans who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their war experiences.
“I had a nervous breakdown. I did have to see a psychiatrist and was on medication for the duration of that deployment,” he says.
Golodryga spoke to Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a nonprofit organization providing veterans with resources and services to help them transition from active duty to civilian life.
“It’s kind of like the early days of the AIDS crisis,” he says. “Our friends are dying all around us, and it feels like nobody’s paying attention.”
IAVA provides a rapid-response referral program that works quickly to assist veterans in urgent need of help.
“We get contacted by veterans with various crises, and what we do is help them navigate the veteran space,” says IAVA veteran transition manager Vadim Panasyuk.
“When they contact us, what we do is, we find out what’s going on — peel the onion and see what issue’s going on underneath the very basic issue that they contacted us for,” says Panasyuk.
Golodryga also spoke with Rieckhoff about the political climate surrounding veterans heading into the 2016 presidential election.
“We’re talking issues with all of the candidates,” he says. “We are asking both parties to have a debate specifically on military issues and veterans affairs. Show us why you should be commander in chief.”
Breeze says he is fortunate to have been able to connect with IAVA and work with Panasyuk to help resolve various financial and legal issues.
“After that phone call I got five resources, three of which were fruitful to help me get a lot of things handled, helped me with financial hardship — it felt really good.”
Rieckhoff says movies like “American Sniper” help the public understand what many veterans cope with.
It’s not going to be a magic medicine that saves someone’s life.
“That helps, but ultimately it’s community and connection. That’s what’s going to let people know that they have hope.”