Veterans entering their life after service often find that one of the hardest parts of communicating with others is that so few have shared their experiences. Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, told The Tampa Tribune that starting a few years ago, the center received numerous calls from veterans pleading for counselors who understand what they were going through based on personal experience in the armed forces.
Reynolds made sure that their requests didn't go unanswered. Tampa's crisis center now has a dedicated phone service specifically for veterans. If a servicemember calls in from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, they'll find themselves talking to a peer counselor who is also a fellow veteran.
Military training isn't the only thing that makes these counselors so effective. Being able to discuss similar backgrounds and experiences with callers can make all the difference in the world. The program has proven so successful that the crisis center is seeking more veteran volunteers to participate in the effort.
Former Marine Jamie McPherson told The Tampa Tribune that "There's a stigma in the military culture about asking for help. In the military, you have a buddy to help you back up and we're extending that hand."
The power of a phone call isn't lost on New York Sen. Robert Ortt, who in partnership with AT&T and Niagara County Veterans Service Agency helped to donate more than 900 cell phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers last month. Niagara Frontier Publications reported that the proceeds from the recycled phones went a long way toward assuring active duty military serving overseas could call home during the holiday season using long-distance calling cards.