On the home front

There is some help available in Sacramento for readjustment

In October, Sandra Moreno, a sergeant first class with the U.S. Army, arrived at her new job at the Sacramento Veterans Center. A counselor and outreach specialist, Moreno helps returning veterans readjust to civilian life. In a proactive way, Moreno also has been reaching out to deploying soldiers so they know where to find her if they have problems when they return.

Moreno herself has just come home from a tour in Iraq as part of a “combat stress company,” a new attempt by the military to help soldiers handle stress while they’re still serving with their companies.

A soldier might come in by himself, said Moreno, if “he feels like he’s going to break … discharge his weapon or something,” or he might arrive with his commander. The soldier might stay for a couple of days, or come in once a week for classes in anger management or goal setting.

“The notion of prevention and early intervention is new,” said Michael Miracle, Moreno’s team leader. Receiving treatment overseas near the conflict, soldiers maintain their links to their support systems and “don’t feel like they’re on vacation.”

Though Moreno is now ready to help vets who’ve made it home, the center is expecting that most new veterans won’t find their way to treatment centers right away. Miracle said the center had treated only about 50 soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts so far. Because there’s still a stigma attached, Miracle explained, most soldiers won’t seek treatment until months or years after symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder emerge.

Military personnel and their families can contact the Sacramento Veterans Center for services at 1111 Howe Avenue or by phone at (916) 566-7430.

Also, a new national resource, Veterans and Families, is just launching in Sacramento to offer free psychological services to veterans from here and around the country. The organization also will do counseling and give advice to families of returning veterans, who may have a difficult time recognizing combat stress and knowing how to help a returning veteran negotiate homecoming. Veterans and Families can be reached at (916) 395-4054 or through its Web site at www.veteransandfamilies.org.