An interception switches the course of a football game by changing its flow and energy. This is also the goal for us at the Veterans Administration toward veterans experiencing recent conflict.

Veterans tend to keep on the alert and mission-ready for some time after being exposed to a conflict-ridden area.  When they come home, they may continue to feel the same stress and tension that they felt while deployed. If you have a loved one that has recently returned home from a war zone, do these three things within the first 30 days of them returning home: accept, listen and extend.

Accept the fact that your loved one has been to a place that you may never imagine going and has seen things that human eyes shouldn’t see. Accept their experiences and the fact that they will probably be changed for the rest of their lives. Accept that they may not fit into society as they have before, but that’s the way it has to be now.

Listen to their words. Therapy is sometimes effective just by letting people release their frustrations and bad energy through their words. Listen to what they have to say and don’t comment back with your experiences – for they are far different than the veteran’s. Listen for their cries of help, cries of pain, cries of misunderstanding. Those cries come in many different forms, but you’ve got to listen to be able to hear them.

Extend your home and your heart. The veteran is not apt to receive handouts, seek help, or expect you to understand what is humming between his or her ears. Extend yourself to them, so they know that there is a place to seek refuge during this transition. Extend your heart and your home, for it may just be their saving grace from hitting rock bottom.

Common folk cannot speak the same language as a high-level businessman or a mathematician, nor can they speak “Veteran.”  So many of our men and women, like this writer, have experienced a downhill spiral after coming home without the proper support. If you commit to accept, listen, and extend to these warriors, they may just be able to fully come home.

James Ottino lives in Enfield. 

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