As a Marine Iraq Veteran of two tours, I experienced and witness a lot of negative situations in the war. After I discharge from the service, I was feeling a sense of isolation and many other symptoms that I had. I ended finding out that it was PTSD symptoms that I was having. I was diagnosed with PTSD from the VA and I started receiving treatment through them. Even though I was receiving treatment, I felt that I was still struggling in school and my social life; due to my symptoms. In late 2007, I attended my first Vets4Vets workshop. Immediately, I felt extremely comfortable and there I learned and experienced the peer support. Vets4Vets has been a place where I can share and talk about my experience without anyone judging me. With their support and guidance I have felt that this organization has helped me more on my journey to recover from my PTSD disability. The VA has been a great help, yet I credit Vets4Vets more for my recovery. Ever since my first workshop I attended, I have felt better as a person. I strongly encourage every Veteran to attend these workshops because peer support is a big tool to utilize and it does help talking to other combat veterans. Since Vets4Vets has helped me so much, I have started our own Vets4Vets chapter in Los Angeles and have local meetings on a monthly basis. We even had a family BBQ at the park for Veterans and over 100 Veterans and their families participated.
I spent 5 years active duty Army, came back from Iraq in June of 2008 and started college in September 2008. Since I was a stop-loss soldier, there was not enough time between getting out of the military and starting school. My transition was extremely rocky because of the overwhelming sense of isolation and paranoia. I did not understand my impatience and rage especially since I was never like this before. My VA certifying official on campus emailed me information on a Vets4Vets workshop. I was hesitant about this organization in the beginning because while in the military, PTSD had been extremely stigmatized. No one wants to admit they have a problem or talk about their experience. With my certifying officials encouragement, I decided to sign up. I can honestly say that was the best decision of my life. There is no greater feeling than to know that you are not alone. The Vets4Vets structure is amazing for it strips away each veterans militant past and provides a safe environment for building an everlasting bond everyone in the room is able to share. Sharing war stories is not an easy task, many veterans choose not to talk about war or their experience. Setting this environment is difficult but the Vets4Vets staff and the way each workshop is set up makes all attendees feel safe in a room full of strangers who will soon become their best friends. I am certain that I can pick up my phone at any time of the day or night to call another vet that has attended the Vets4Vets workshop and they will be willing to drop everything they are doing to talk to me. The power of peer support is unbelievable. There are many stories in a war veterans past that only war veterans can understand. The trauma experienced is no doubt unmanageable, that is why so many veterans commit suicide. To know there are others going through PTSD and are willing to help each other get through it, it undoubtedly saves lives. Thanks to this organization, veterans are able to come together to find others like them and have a strong support system. I can honestly say I would not be here today if it was not for this organization. That is why I will continue to donate and participate in its promotion to save the lives of other veterans.