Conversations with Veterans

Listen 49:25
US military soldier's dog tags with an American Flag design

(SSilver/Big Stock)

There are 19 million veterans in the U.S. who have served in the armed forces. For many, the military gave them a sense of shared purpose, a strong connection to their comrades. But that community often disappears when they get out of the service, leaving many feeling alone, or misunderstood. On top of that, many veterans suffer with lingering health challenges, both visible and invisible. On this episode, we talk to veterans about what they experienced, and what they want other people to know. We hear stories about one woman’s struggle to get help for her PTSD, how Shakespeare is helping veterans transition back to civilian life, and some of the health effects that come with combat.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Utibe Essien — a core investigator with the VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion in Pittsburgh — explains how and why race-based health disparities exist in a system designed to provide equal health care to all veterans.
  • The transition from military service back into society can be challenging. One military veteran is trying to make that process easier using an unlikely approach — Shakespeare. Nichole Currie reports on a program that taps into verse for healing trauma, it’s called De-Cruit.
  • We talk with Zachary Bell, the former Marine who started Veteran with a Sign — a popular Instagram account that features everything from inside jokes to very serious messages about mental health on cardboard signs.
  • Former Navy SEAL James Hatch talks about his unique transition from warfighter to Yale freshman. His book is “Touching the Dragon: And Other Techniques for Surviving Life’s Wars.”
  • Combat Veteran Ray Christian interviews a female veteran, Jessica Ian Jenkins, about her experiences at VA health centers. She was seeking treatment for PTSD, but says she only got help after it was almost too late.

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