A group that is sponsoring a weekend retreat designed to help veterans heal the emotional wounds of combat was lauded this week by city council. Vets Journey Home received an honorary citation from council and special recognition from Councilman David Oh.
“To those who come back, to those who do not come back, to those who come back with injuries, do we not all, who have benefitted from the sacrifices of the few, have much to consider, much to give back and much to remember,” said Oh, in remarks as a special ceremony Thursday afternoon at city hall. “They ask for so little.”
Oh presented a citation from the city to the group’s founder Gene McMahon, who thanked council and urged the entire city to stand behind veterans.
“It takes an entire community to help heal the vets,” he said. “It takes a community to welcome them home and welcome them back into their hearts.”
Vets Journey Home is sponsoring a free weekend retreat in Wernersville, Berks County this weekend for eight combat veterans. It will include six veterans from Philadelphia, one from New York and one from Reading. It operates programs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan, California and Texas. McMahon explained that the retreats are limited to 10 participants because of the intensive nature of the program. It is specifically tailored to assist returning veterans deal with the emotional scars of combat.
“We provide a safe, nonjudgmental environment, staffed by military and civilian volunteers … where veterans can share their experiences with one another and know they are no alone,” he said.
Society is generally more understanding of veterans with physical wounds but often war leaves invisible scars.
“A lot of vets come back and they’re carrying wounds deep in their heart and deep in their soul,” McMahon said. “They’re having a hard time when they come back. They’re in turmoil.”
That turmoil often leads to behavior that makes resuming a regular life difficult – anger that can lead to fighting, divorce, estrangement from children, family and friends and even trouble with the law.
“They spiral down,” said McMahon, noting that 18 veterans commit suicide every day. “That’s a national tragedy.”
This weekend’s retreat will be capped by a public ceremony at 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Jesuit Center chapel, 501 N. Church St., Wernersville, Pa. 19165.
“This is an opportunity for the community to honor and welcome home … these veterans, to truly honor their service,” he said.