Sunday, September 16, 2001

Events revive stress for vets

VA center handling more calls

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        At the VA Medical Center, calls and visits from Tristate veterans have increased since the first, horrible images of Tuesday's terrorist attacks were broadcast on television screens .

        “Nobody's ever seen anything like this, it's all so unreal,” said Dr. Dewleen Baker, director of the VA's Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Program and an associate professor of psychiatry. “You never thought you'd see a plane slice through a building like that.”

        At the Prospect House, where a group of Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder meets once a week, the founder of After 'Nam, Roger Zellars, said it may increase meetings to twice a week.

        While the program serves veterans with PTSD from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War, most of those making contact this past week have been Vietnam and Gulf War veterans.

        What is happening is a trigger for those who have experienced a delayed reaction to the stresses of war and combat, traumatized by what they experienced and witnessed. The horror of Tuesday reawakens those memories and emotions.

        “It's very disorienting,” said Dr. Baker. “Guys that have been in war and have seen buildings fall down, what a traumatic reminder this has been, what a trigger.”

        Gulf War veterans can be especially vulnerable because the Middle East is where they went to war. The terrorists in Tuesday's attack are suspected of having ties to that part of the world.

        “Some of them feel like what they did was futile,” said Charlina Copeland, a nurse who works in the program. “They had a feeling that they took care of things, and now there's this.”

        Mr. Zellars said about 15 Vietnam veterans met Thursday night in After 'Nam.

        “Many of the guys expressed anger,” said Mr. Zellars. “Several were crying. Some are having a real tough time.”

        To them the images were disturbing; some of them talked about flashbacks and nightmares they've experienced this week. Trouble sleeping.

        During the Gulf War 10 years ago, After 'Nam increased its meetings to twice a week. Mr. Zellars said that the group may do it again, depending on the military response to the Tuesday attacks.


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