Land Commissioner reminds veterans of mental health services

AUSTIN (KXAN) – While many people plan to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, that could lead to trouble for some veterans who fought for our freedom. Some veterans coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can have a bad reaction to the sound of fireworks.

It can sound like bomb explosions and put some veterans in the mindset of being in a battle. So, if you’re planning on firing off fireworks in your backyard, think about those who live around you first.

The Texas Veterans Land Board provides help for veterans recovering from Post Traumatic Stress as well as other services.

But a study found only 1 out of 5 veterans in Texas use those services.

“For seven years I probably wasn’t fit to live with. I would isolate myself,” said John Beckling Jr.

Beckling is a combat veteran from Vietnam. Now he tries to brighten up the dark times for many military members and veterans in Killeen, right down the street from Fort Hood. He runs a Christ centered weekly support group through a local church. Service members gather with their spouses down the hall. The stakes are high. Conversations are frequently about divorce; about suicide.

“You know you go off strong and you don’t come back the same. You see stuff that nobody should really have to experience,” said Beckling.

He says one of the largest hurdles is getting vets to talk about their problems.

“It’s usually the hardest step,” said Land Commissioner George P. Bush. He’s a veteran himself and runs the Texas Veterans Land Board under the General Land Office. He says veterans either don’t know or don’t take advantage of mental health services for veterans.

He sat down with KXAN to talk about Okay to Say, a public awareness campaign with the meadows foundation. The point is it’s okay for a veteran to reach out and ask for help.

“Shine a light. Shine a light on these issues. Remind our veterans what’s available to them and I think we’ll see a better goal of seeing less suicides,” said Commissioner Bush.

One of the biggest challenge now he says, is getting thousands of men and women returning from war used to normal life again. A responsibility that lands on all of us, especially those who have the power to hire veterans.

“There’s also a stigma associated with stepping forward and saying I have a mental health issue or thinking about suicide,” said Bush.

It’s a message that hits home across Texas this fourth of July.

To get information on the Texas Veterans Land Board. 

They’re asking you to call:  1-800-252-8387 or 512-463-5060. They’ll connect you with the Texas Veterans Commission. 

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