A Community That Cares

A good friend of ours got a phone call in 2007. Her brother Sam, recently returned from a year in Iraq, was dead in a single car accident. Her dad, devastated himself, delivered the news. What had been relief and jubilation at Sam’s safe return was turned into indescribable grief for the entire family. And his friends didn’t think it was an accident. They believed Sam had killed himself. What had gone wrong?

Sam, an infantry soldier in the Sunni Triangle, went out on “missions” daily. These weren’t Sunday drives. Mortal danger lurked at every overpass and intersection. Any day could mean an ambush or an explosion. People he knew, friends, were killed or wounded. And while it was a stressful year for the entire family, waiting at home, the pressure on Sam can only be imagined. On his return, Sam, once a sweet, loveable, gregarious guy, was now angry and short tempered. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t seem to get going with work or school. He said he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But not to worry, right? He said some of his buddies were much worse off and they were getting together and meeting with a counselor occasionally. Surely it would all sort itself out and everything would return to normal.

And then that 5am phone call. The kind we all hope we never get. Sam was dead. He was gone, leaving his family and friends wondering if they could have taken his situation more seriously. And if they had, could they have helped avoid a senseless tragedy? What about the community at large? Were they sensitized to the challenges of returning veterans?

The people who live around Fort Knox have a great affection for their Soldiers, and soon, they’ll get another chance to show how much they care, as the largest number of returning combat veterans the region has seen since 1942 comes home. The more than 3500 men and women of the Duke Brigade will begin returning to Fort Knox in mid-November, a homecoming that will continue through January. Many have seen combat, and like Sam, have lived through situations that most civilians can’t even imagine. They’ll all need to readjust to normal civilian life, and some of them may have a tougher time of it than others. They’ll need our thanks, and our continued appreciation for their service. They’ll also need a little understanding.

To prepare for this homecoming, the region around the installation will be hosting “Returning from Combat … Building an Understanding Community” on November 17th at Fort Knox. Representatives from local law enforcement, clergy and lay leaders, faith based organizations, the judicial system, education, elected leaders, health and human services, community nonprofits and just about anyone who works with the public and comes in contact with Soldiers and their families will learn from experts about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They’ll hear about the challenges our Soldiers and families may face, how they might behave and how we as a community can help. And thanks to the generosity of some wonderful local sponsors, there is no cost to attend.

This is truly a community that cares.

If you work with the public or the type of agencies mentioned above and come in contact with service members and their families, you are welcome to come. Space is still available. All you have to do is register at www.oneknox.com/events.

It’s filling quickly, so be sure to register your attendance today.