Wounds of war or military service, both mental and physical, can stay with our veterans the rest of their lives. But for veterans and service members who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it can be downright debilitating.
During this PTSD Awareness Month, all Americans should acknowledge the prevalence of PTSD in the veteran community. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 11-20 percent of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Veterans, 12 percent of Gulf War Veterans, and 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans suffer or have suffered from PTSD in their lifetime.
One of the most tragic consequences of PTSD is that these individuals often avoid social interaction, resulting in a tremendous strain on their relationships with their families, friends and marriages.
As a veteran myself, and a key leader of one of the fastest growing non-profit veteran organizations in America whose mission is to provide free event tickets to currently serving service members and veterans, I know the challenges of breaking through to someone who experiences the challenges of PTSD.
Yet pouring over more than 700 testimonials from our members with PTSD revealed a breakthrough: getting out and attending events such as a Major League Baseball game or a concert for free with family, friends or fellow service members or veterans can be a game-changer for socially isolated veterans with PTSD, allowing them to engage with their community and conquer their symptoms.
Admittedly, when our organization, Veteran Tickets Foundation or “Vet Tix,” was founded in 2008, we did not specifically set out to provide relief for veterans suffering from PTSD. We simply saw a need to give back to our veterans and service members; a means to thank them for their service and sacrifices.
Becoming a member is free and one just has to be a currently serving service member, a veteran or the immediate family member of a service member who was killed in the line of duty to join.
But receiving free tickets to special events has had a far more reaching impact on veterans, service members and their families than we had imagined.
For example, a 61-year-old veteran suffering from PTSD who attended his first-ever live football game said it made him “feel like a kid again.”
The veteran revealed, “Normally crowds really freak me out and make me feel very uneasy… I was able to put my PTSD on a short vacation and that allowed me to really enjoy myself for the first time in over 40 years.”
A U.S. Army Veteran who attended a comedy event in Atlantic City last month shared, “I suffer from PTSD and this night of laughter was great medicine.”
Thousands of his fellow veterans shared that were able to escape their PTSD symptoms when attending these events.
“Thank you so much for the tickets to see Dwight Yoakum in Corpus Christie!” a U.S. Air Force Veteran stated in his written testimonial. “It was the first time in years I have been out at a public event… thank you for making it worthwhile to stretch myself beyond some PTSD issues to make the show with my lovely wife!”
For a veteran suffering from PTSD, attending a live event can be life-changing. Leaving the confines of their home and actually enjoying an experience among a crowd can be like taking their first steps after being paralyzed.
For instance, seeing the Detroit Tigers play against the Pittsburgh Pirates this year was more than just a ballgame for one former soldier suffering from PTSD: “It was really great to be able to get out of the house, as my PTSD has been hitting me hard lately.”
Another Army Veteran, who was able to attend a Melissa Ethridge concert in April, gave us a sense of his daily suffering with PTSD and how it leaves him with feelings of isolation: “I suffer from PTSD and sometimes I tend to retreat into my own little world.”
The veteran added, “Getting a chance to go to this concert benefited me in so many ways. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
The feeling of sheer joy – that momentary relief from their wounds of war — is palpable.
Steven Weintraub (Colonel, USMC Reserve) is the Chief Strategy Officer at Veteran Tickets Foundation. Learn more at www.vettix.org.
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