We thank them for their service but returning Veterans need so much more

Lt. Col. Robert Vicci is the CEO of vetREST, which, according to their website, "helps Vets address their challenges with a goal of finding peace from their hidden battles."

"Veech" has been a friend of mine since the days he used to come to Catch A Rising Star in between deployments to Iraq. Now he spends his days on the phone or in public tracking down jobs for veterans, transitioning vets back to the workplace, and setting up places where vets can work and make a solid living and contribution to society.

I asked Veech about some of the things veterans are dealing with today.

What are the biggest problems we are seeing with NJ Veterans as we get over the pandemic?

"Seclusion, separation from family and friends, and limited access to medical care have diminished the spirit and health of our Veteran population. We are still seeing a large suicide rate, as well as unemployment rates. Our veteran women experience a larger number of homeless/unemployment crises.

"Also, many charities have seen diminished donations across the board, so many of us are handcuffed with the lack of funds available and quality of assistance we can offer our Veterans. Many of us spend countless hours on the phone with our vets, doing the best we can to keep them safe and secure.

"I have seen several articles on the potential for VA facilities to stop treating unvaccinated Veterans. This would be a total disaster. All will lose faith in the one system designed to serve our ailing Veteran population. And we know that once 'trust' is lost, it may never come back. This would be devastating to Veterans and their families."

What advice would you give them?

"Stay in the fight … never give up, seek out help, call SOMEONE … call me, call the VA hotline, call VetREST or any other veteran-focused charity that they can find. Doing something is better than doing nothing. We see it all the time. By the time some Veterans get to me, they are deep in the hole. It takes a huge effort to bring them out and get them healthy again. Everyone needs a 'Battle Buddy.' Find yours."

What advice would you give a Veteran’s family member dealing with PTSD?

"Contact us at www.VetREST.org or any other agency that you are aware of within our community. There are many that help, but we will point you in the right direction. There are many treatment programs within the VA, and many others that are privately funded. The most important thing to do is GET HELP, don’t wait, the sooner you react the better."

"We are also working with Citizen Soldier Law to help Veterans upgrade their discharge from Other Than Honorable (OTH) to at least a General (under Honorable conditions) or Honorable. So many soldiers are being discharged after several combat tours with negative discharge reasons for separation. This greatly affects their ability to seek help from the VA. And now due to the vaccine mandate, the military will discharge soldiers with an OTH Discharge as well. This is a crisis."

How has the political divide that we’re going through in the country affected both the younger and older Veterans?

"Very touchy subject here, Steve, but with the surrender of Afghanistan, and leaving behind billions of dollars of our military equipment has greatly impacted our veteran population.

"I survived my combat tour in Iraq due to the sophistication of our night vision systems, and now we have handed that to the enemy. I feel disgraced by failed leadership. We have seen an increase in the suicide rate, not only due to the lack of trust in our government and military leaders, but the lingering effects of COVID have added fuel to the fire.

"If the VA stops treating unvaccinated veterans, there will be chaos among the ranks. Many older veterans are not going to the VA at all, and this is devastating to their health and the health of their families.

"I also mentor many younger folks, not only those who wish to attend a service academy but those who just want to serve. A large majority of our youth today are hesitant to join the military these days. The woke agenda is paralyzing recruiting, from my point of view.

"And now mandatory vaccines for the military are causing much disarray. I have many friends, men and women with whom I have served within the past, who will be terminated from their military jobs (either active duty or serving as a contractor) within a month. I know of several flight instructors who are unvaccinated and will not submit to a mandated vaccination policy, that will no longer be employed by Christmas. I think the short and long-term effects of this will be devastating to our military preparedness and readiness."

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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