November 11, 2013

Scarred by war, veteran works to help others heal

Richard Brewer started One Warrior Won to give support to other vets with post-traumatic stress disorder.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Photo shows Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983. Richard Brewer is circled in white at lower right.

Photo contrubuted by Richard Brewer

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Richard Brewer is the founder of One Warrior Won, offering support for veterans suffering from the effects of PTSD. Here, Brewer is interviewed at his Exchange Street office.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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VETERANS DAY EVENTS

PORTLAND: 10:30 a.m. parade starts at Longfellow Square; 11 a.m. ceremony at City Hall

SOUTH PORTLAND: 10 a.m. parade starts at Broadway and Pickett; 11 a.m. ceremony at Service Memorial park

WESTBROOK: 11 a.m., Riverbank Park; a ceremony hosted by American Legion Post 62

HONORING KOREAN WAR VETERANS

A rolling convoy to honor veterans of the Korean War from Yarmouth, North Yarmouth and Cumberland will make three stops on Monday, followed by a luncheon at the Amvets Hall on North Road in Yarmouth:

9:45 a.m.: Moss Side Cemetery, Cumberland

10:30 a.m.: Wescustogo Green, North Yarmouth

11:11 a.m.: Yarmouth Town Green, Yarmouth

PTSD SYMPTOMS

Re-experiencing an event over and over again, like having nightmares.

Avoiding people or places that are reminders of an event or feeling numb or detached.

Being routinely on edge, irritable or startling easily.

SYMPTOMS OF traumatic brain injury, in which the head was hit or shaken violently, as from an explosion: Difficulty organizing tasks, blurred vision, headaches or ringing in the ears, feeling sad, anxious or listless, chronically tired, dizzy, memory problems, impulsivity, light and sound sensitivity.

Source: Department of Defense Force Health Protection & Readiness

“There’s something called combat operational stress and then there’s something called PTSD,” Weigelt said.

“Folks with PTSD that I have encountered experienced pretty terrible things and – coupled with what they saw – an imminent threat to themselves,” he said. Others have gotten counseling, and while the experience “left a mark,” it does not rise to the level of a disorder, he said.

“It’s important to make that distinction so that individuals who are contemplating military service and currently in military service aren’t going to think there is something profoundly wrong with them if they have some symptomology,” he said.

The Maine Army National Guard and the Reserves have incorporated a goal into the demobilization schedule so that soldiers reconnect with one another after deployment. Once back from serving overseas, units and their families gather monthly for three months to get information about reintegration and reconnect with members of their unit.

Weigelt said those having a great deal of difficulty after deployment have access to counselors at veterans centers throughout the state and at the VA hospital in Togus.

Brewer says that for many combat veterans, the existing system, including the overburdened services of the VA, aren’t meeting their needs.

One Warrior Won is individual and handles a variety of needs, he said. One veteran might need a suit for a job interview. Another might need a service dog. Brewer has advocated for the VA to pay for service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

Joel Connick said One Warrior Won helped him and now he’s working with the organization to help others.

Connick is a Portland High School graduate, a Marine and a veteran of the Iraq War, including the battle of al Nasariyah in 2003, where some of the heaviest fighting took place. Connick also fought in Kosovo and Afghanistan. He says he was a mess when he finally came back.

“It was the anxiety and the hypervigilance and the irritability,” he said of his PTSD. “My outlet, it became self-medication. ... That’s the only way I could get my body or myself to calm down.

“When they told me I had it, I was embarrassed about it, didn’t want people to know. People would treat me differently,” Connick said. “You feel weak and inferior. Eventually you learn that’s not the case. It’s your brain, that’s all it is. Your brain doesn’t shut off. ... It’s still vigilant in that caveman state of survival. That’s why you’re always revved up, stressed.”

Like many veterans with PTSD, he has wrestled with substance abuse and had trouble finding and holding a job.

Working with One Warrior Won, using his painful experiences to help someone else has become an outlet.

“We just kind of take it head on and we can get stuff done a lot quicker than the VA,” he said.

Connick says he doesn’t regret signing up for military service.

“I was part of something bigger than myself,” he said. “It wasn’t the war, it was the brotherhood. It was the guys to your left and right. That’s exactly what it’s about – it’s about your brothers.”

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Office equipment stands outside the damaged U.S. Embassy annex in the Christian sector of East Beirut, Lebanon, on Sept. 25, 1984, as cleanup work continued in the aftermath of a car bomb attack.

1984 Associated Press file

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Richard Brewer and his dog Anka in Dallas, Texas.

Photo contributed by Richard Brewer

 


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