Veterans look to help fellow veterans on Memorial Day, and every day

NOW: Veterans look to help fellow veterans on Memorial Day, and every day

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Memorial Day can be a challenging one for veterans coping with the loss of fellow servicemembers, but professional resources and organizations aim to make it easier on them.

One psychiatrist and veteran himself said the military life is about sacrifice, and often that involves loss.

As many people enjoy the day off, many veterans are reflecting on the sacrifices that others -and themselves- have made.

Dr. Gregory Burek is a psychiatrist with the Veteran Retraining Program at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital. He said, "Sacrifice is a lot about loss. Taking losses but for a purpose."

Those losses are sometimes difficult to grieve while in service, on duty, or focused on a mission. But psychiatrists say veterans can and should grieve when they can.

Dr. Erich Roush is also a psychiatrist with the Veteran Retraining Program. He said, "On a day like Memorial Day, everyone has their own experiences, it could bring up a lot of guilt or sadness, some tough memories."

Drs. Rousch and Burek say in general, veterans undervalue their own service. Their goal is to make sure veterans know painful experiences are okay .

Dr. Burek said, "What we do around this time of year, and in general, is we help our veterans grieve. All of those losses have to be grieved."

For decades, long-established organizations like the VFW and American Legion have helped veterans unite in shared experience.

Dennis Robinson is a 2nd Vice Commander of American Legion Post 18. He said, "They need to know we're here. That we can relate to them, and that we understand what they're going through and they can talk to us in a language they understand."

But membership is down as younger generations do not join at the same rate as older generations.

Robinson said the younger generations are missing out on fellowship, support, and understanding. "That's that connection that you're going to have. Just because you were…and it doesn't matter what branch. Just because you were in, just because you are a veteran, that connection is going to be there."

Robinson says Post 18 is trying hard to reach younger veterans to share what he and veterans his age benefitted from, but there are challenges connecting. He said, "We need someone from that younger generation to tell us how to reach that generation."

And since veterans identify with similar experiences, Dr. Burek says it's important they connect whenever possible. "I really think the healing begins when we start connecting one vet to another."

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