- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

HINES, Ill. (AP) — Josh Dobbelstein drives as close to the middle of the road as he can. Over on the side of the road, he’s more vulnerable to the enemy intent on killing him by hiding bombs stuffed in plastic bags or the carcasses of dead animals.

He recently dove to the floor of a vehicle he was riding in when he mistook the sound of a trucker hitting his brakes for a machine gun.

They are the kinds of precautions that keep soldiers at war alive. But Mr. Dobbelstein left Iraq more than 16 months ago, and for him, they are vestiges of a war he can’t seem to shake.

He’s trying, though. The 23-year-old is getting help from a clinic at Hines VA Hospital just outside Chicago set up to help veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Programs for veterans suffering from what once was called “shell shock” aren’t unique. At Hines, though, every veteran who comes in for treatment, no matter the reason, is checked out for post-traumatic stress disorder. And they all have access both to individual therapy and a support group with fellow veterans.

“If they register for any type of care, for a rash or depression, they will be screened,” said Dr. Chirag Raval, a psychiatrist at Hines who has treated about 150 veterans at the clinic he established after serving three months in Iraq.

The effort, which Hines officials say is unlike any other in the nation, is evidence that VA hospitals and military leaders are finding new ways to locate and help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Florida, for example, the Naval Hospital Pensacola in Florida has placed advertisements in civilian newspapers to make families — not just veterans themselves — aware of its counseling program. Navy hospitals are also reaching families through a series of online videos about post-traumatic stress disorder.

A cornerstone of the treatment is the recognition that while these veterans share experiences familiar to anyone who has seen combat, their war was different.

“You never really knew the enemy,” said Mr. Dobbelstein, whose job included scouring roadways for explosive devices. “It could be the guy standing next to you who detonated the bomb, for all you knew.”

Because the focus is on a particular group of veterans, those who come to Hines recognize quickly they aren’t the only ones who, for example, become enraged when another vehicle gets too close when they’re driving.

One recent study found a third of U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq the first year of the war later sought mental health treatment — a statistic that suggests thousands of veterans might need help.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide