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How the Vt. Guard helps veterans cope with PTSD - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How the Vt. Guard helps veterans cope with PTSD

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COLCHESTER, Vt. - Col. Martin Lucenti has been on the front lines of battle, working as the Vermont Guard state surgeon. But the injuries he sees are not just physical.

"PTSD is when you've had a horrific event or exposure in your life and you are unable after a protracted period of time to be able to process that," Lucenti said.

The Vermont National Guard says it doesn't specifically track the number of returning Guard soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, but the U.S. Army does. It estimates there are Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans in every Vermont county dealing with PTSD, most are in Chittenden County. And statewide, an estimated 463 postwar military members have PTSD.

"So people struggling with the disorder tend to be on edge, they are alert, edgy, scanning for danger, often have trouble sleeping, may have nightmares, may have flashbacks," said Dr. Laura Gibson, the director of behavioral health at the Burlington VA clinic.

But Gibson also says those with PTSD are not ticking time bombs, which is a common misconception. If a solider with PTSD displays violent tendencies, she says there is something else at work.

"I would absolutely assume there are other things going on too. Because the research on PTSD shows that it is not a predictor of violence, so the things that we know do tend to predict violence are other factors such as substance abuse, criminal history, childhood maltreatment history," Gibson explained.

And the Vermont National Guard says it has services in place to help these veterans, ranging from counseling services, resilience programs and medical supervision. But Capt. Justin Quiet says the most important thing is maintaining the connection to their military family.

"They're part of a family here within the Vermont Army National Guard, and how that family is there when they are going through tough times, so they can rely on us and reach out to us," Quiet said.

But they say sometimes struggling soldiers can slip through the cracks. And when that happens, tragedy can strike.

Kryn Miner served multiple tours in Afghanistan and battled PTSD. Authorities believe that was a contributing factor in a domestic incident at Miner's Essex Junction home last month. He threatened to kill his family and was shot dead by one of his children.

"You're still having nightmares, you're still having visions, you're still hypervigilant," Lucenti said. "The Vermont Guard is small enough that every case hits the entire organization, everyone mostly knows everyone so every one of these misfortunes really hits us hard."

The Guard also tells us the Miner case is currently under investigation. When cases like this happen, they say an outside military entity with no affiliation to the particular solider comes in to look at what went wrong.

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