MILWAUKEE -- The challenges veterans face when transitioning to civilian life can seem insurmountable. Some of our nation's troops don't even realize something is wrong until it's fixed.
Lisa Cross spent 16 years in the Army Reserves including a deployment as part of Desert Storm. She was awarded the bronze medal for her service. It's the fourth highest combat decoration in the military, but it came at a price.
The stress of combat changed her and hardened her emotions. Coming home from serving only made things worse. Cross says, "You don't talk to your family about what you've been through. They would never be able to relate, but you can speak to the other soldiers."
Cross ended up in the hospital multiple times for being physically and mentally ill. Even after treatment she says over the next decade, things just didn't feel right. Then she found the Center for Veterans Issues(CVI) in Milwaukee.
Cross began volunteering at CVI's headquarters as the bingo coordinator. She quickly learned there was more going on than just games. She inadvertently become part of the largest non-profit veterans support organization in Wisconsin. Had she known it existed all those years ago, her life may have turned out differently.
Ozzie Brodhead is in charge of CVI's Veteran Resource Center, and an Iraq War veteran. He spent 14 years in the Army Reserve and was deployed as a mental health specialist. He helped troops in the field cope with Battlefield trauma. Now he's addressing the lingering effects.
Whether service members have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder or not they face an onslaught of challenges when re-entering civilian life. For many of them, CVI is a helping hand. The center offers guidance through the government benefits process, job training, money management classes and temporary housing. Brodhead says, "He was literally living in a tent, and he had job skills. He had some college, almost a bachelor's degree and it was that kind of hump that he needed assistance with."
CVI continues to expand its outreach efforts. Some of the projects in the works include a public cafe that will employ veterans and help fund the non-profit. Then there's Veteran's Gardens where foreclosed inner city homes will be bought then rehabbed by veterans. It will simultaneously teach those workers new skills while creating new places for our struggling troops to stay.