Aging Vietnam vets find fellowship
March 5, 2016
MIDDLETOWN — On Thursday afternoons, in a small church in this Butler County city, a band of brothers gathers. They are gray now, many soft in the middle, stepping over the line into retirement. They slip on the VETERAN caps. Outside the church, they say, they don’t talk much. But inside, they can point at last to the shadows that haunt them still, and a brother says, I see them, too.
Some of the men discuss government paperwork. Others brew coffee. One nudges the next man, wearing the Silver Star for valor on his hat, and teases, "you know, he’s the crazy one." At one recent meeting, some of the men shake their heads over a troubled Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD, whose body was found Feb. 20 in the Little Miami River near Loveland.
The men call themselves the Veterans Social Command, but the name is more formal than the group itself. Seven years ago, seven veterans of the Vietnam War started meeting to helping others file claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs. As the years passed, they found that what their brothers needed was fellowship. Today, the command counts its number at 90 and growing.
“We didn’t start out like this,” said James Shepherd of Middletown, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam and was a charter member of the Veterans Social Command. “It was just a few people in PTSD group. We realized the more we met that the guys needed two things: help with the VA, which we could do, and a fellowship, just being together. Some of these guys haven't talked about what they did in the war since they came home."
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