Saunders: Local efforts aim to give veterans their due

bsaunders@newsobserver.comNovember 7, 2012 

Wasn’t it Confucius who first said, “If you give a man a fish, you can feed him for one day, but if you take him fishing, you can help stop that vicious loop from replaying in his battle-scarred brain”?

If not, it was Captain Newborn, director of the Next Level Veterans Outreach Program, a national mental health and medical facility for veterans in Durham.

Newborn, who despite his name is neither a seafaring man nor a military veteran, told me Wednesday that fishing – specifically deep-sea fishing – is a big part of the treatment given to veterans suffering deep-seated post traumatic stress.

“We know that’s a very effective way to treat PTSD,” he said. “It’s called replacement therapy, and it’s a way to get them out of that loop that keeps playing in their minds.” That loop, he said, is like a movie reel that keeps replaying the horrors of war.

Veterans don’t get anywhere near the attention or help they deserve and need, but some people in Durham are trying to change that.

In addition to Next Level, which is having a Veterans Day cookout with entertainment and games Friday at its facility, a 3-year-old group called Veterans for Hope at Mount Gilead Baptist Church is sponsoring a breakfast Monday at the Durham Marriott downtown.

At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Union Baptist Church at 904 N. Roxboro Street is holding its Veterans Appreciation Celebration.

Promoting awareness

Army veteran Harold Sellars hopes that by enticing the veterans, some of whom are homeless or jobless, with a free meal, representatives from veterans organizations can show them what services are available to them. Among the people speaking to vets Monday, he said, are veterans consultant I.T. Breeze and Lindsey Arledge, supervisor for homeless programs with the Veterans Administration.

“We’re just a fledgling group that’s trying to help veterans ... trying to bring awareness,” Sellars said.

The need for awareness hit home with him Sept. 14, he said, when he attended a daylong event for vets at County Stadium. “It was called ‘Durham Stand Down for Veterans’ and they had health screenings, booths set up for information. ... They provided toiletries and clothes. It’s been going on for several years, but me, being a veteran, this was the first year I’d ever heard about it.”

Sellars fears many other veterans may also be unaware of services available to them.

You can come to the Marriott and stake a vet to a meal for $12. You can also call the church, where the pastor, David Mitchell, is a retired U.S. Navy chaplain, at 919-688-6052 to find other ways you can help veterans.

Reintegrating veterans

Newborn, of Next Level, already knows how to help. He said Next Level “specialize(s) in reintegrating veterans back into civilian society. The first thing we do is get them housing if they need it, link them up with a psychiatrist if they have PTSD or a counselor if they have problems with substance abuse. We help them convert their military resume to a civilian resume ....

“We serve the oldest living veteran in America (Samie Anderson, who is 104),” he said, “and we think we have the largest caseload of veterans in the state.”

If you are a vet who needs help, know a vet who needs help or are someone who just wants to help the organization that helps vets, call Next Level at 919-683-6398. If you want to thank a vet in person or get some barbecue and fish, drop by the cookout Friday at 1107 Holloway Street.

Aye, aye, Captain. or 919-836-2811

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