2017-01-08 / Insight

Veteran-to-veteran support offered in county

BY KRYSTAL MORALEE
810-452-2609 •

MAYFIELD TWP. — For a little more than a year, now, Paul Hitch has been working to connect veterans with each other in an environment where they can share their struggles and gain support from their peers.

There are things about being a veteran of the United States military that only other veterans can truly understand, and issues can be of such a personal nature that many vets are reluctant to talk about them. But holding those issues in, particularly when help may be readily available, is taking its toll on our veteran population. Statistics say that every 22 seconds, another veteran commits suicide across America.

Hitch is a vocational rehabilitation counselor for Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield in the Air Force and Air National Guard. In 2015, he had the idea to start a veteran-to-veteran support group, where veterans can feel free to speak candidly without fear of losing benefits or other repercussions. It’s completely confidential, and on a first-name basis.

“We know that the things they’ve experienced makes it difficult for them to reintegrate into society,” Hitch said, several months after starting the group. “We’ve all been through the fire. We have differences, but there’s commonality. There’s no problem off limits and there’s no problem more important. Sometimes they want information, sometimes they just want a place to vent, and sometimes we can help them.”

The veterans’ support group is held on the third Wednesday of each month, from 6-8 p.m., at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on Daley Road in Mayfield Township. Any and all veterans are welcome to attend.

Hitch also targets a specialized subsection of veterans in another support group — one held each week at the Lapeer County Jail for incarcerated veterans. Currently, he said, the jail has three veterans, though they’ve had as many as five in the group.

For more information, contact Hitch at 810-728-3895 or 810-667-7218.

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