PORTLAND – Five years ago, Community Counseling Center began to witness the impact that deployment can have on military service members and their families.

Staff with skills in trauma recovery and family treatment set to work to develop an understanding and expertise in the mental health needs of our veterans and their family members. They learned about military culture and what it’s like for families who have a loved one deployed during wartime.

They discovered that traditional service delivery was not always effective with this population. They sought out specialized training and built a close working relationship with the National Guard and its community of service men and women and their families.

It was the start of a new area of expertise for Community Counseling Center, and since then, our clinicians have served 700 Maine military service members.

We joined with the National Guard to conduct a comprehensive, first-time study to understand the challenges and needs of returning soldiers and their families.

We learned that 50 percent of returning service members experience difficulties that impact their quality of life, family relationships and workplace adjustment.

Deployment and the experiences of combat are life-changing events that affect the service member and loved ones. When the veteran returns home, the transition can pose significant challenges as he or she reconnects with family, friends and community and seeks a new life purpose.

As part of its response to these problems, Community Counseling Center collaborated with the National Guard and the National Center for PTSD to develop the Maine Directory of Support, a resource guide for veterans and their families.

The directory contains information about behavioral health services, substance abuse services, traumatic brain injury services and vocational services. Thousands of directories have been distributed to assist veterans and their families in making informed choices when seeking counseling and supportive services.

The directory offers guidance on choosing a treatment provider, identifying the varied credentials and licensure of professionals and understanding the different kinds of services available.

We brought in mental health clinicians who are veterans themselves to work with those men and women who want a clinician familiar with war-zone experiences. These clinicians have developed combat readjustment groups run for veterans, by veterans.

We developed the Courageous Kids Kit, a packet for children who are about to experience the deployment of a parent. The kit is distributed statewide and contains various tools to assist children in their adjustment.

These kits have received national attention and have helped countless children adjust to the deployment of a mom or dad.

Since 2007, Community Counseling Center has been part of the Maine Military and Community Network, which examines the issues Maine veterans face, and suggests ways to improve our statewide system of support.

Together, we produced a statewide conference, The Journey Home: Creating a Network of Support for Veterans and their Families, for professionals who support veterans and their families.

This Veterans Day — and all through the month of November, which has been designated as Military Family Month — we will all be reminded of the sacrifices that vets and their families make each and every day.

The Community Counseling Center Board of Directors is proud of the commitment our staff has made to Maine vets, their spouses and children.

Through their work, we are ever mindful of the unique challenges our service men and women face, as well as the amazing strength and resilience of these families.

We must never take our veterans for granted. We owe them nothing less than giving them the ability to return home and lead healthy, productive lives.