The JWV is committed to going beyond mere political support for the Vietnam Era veteran. Through this program, "We Care About Vietnam Vets", JWV can demonstrate the real concern we have by reaching out to the Vietnam Era veteran personally.
The Vietnam Veteran's Adjustment Problem
As a result of fighting in an unpopular war and coming home to an indifferent society, many Vietnam vets were faced with an adjustment problem. This problem, also known as the delayed stress syndrome can be manifested in a number of symptoms from intense feelings of alienation, alcoholism and drug dependence to an inability to nurture interpersonal relationships and to cope with the routine problems encountered in daily life.
Evidence suggests that these veterans do not generally present themselves at VA clinics for evaluation or treatment. Also, many veterans are reluctant to seek counseling for fear of being labeled "mentally ill". In light of this, Congress enacted the Veterans Health Care Amendments of 1979 (PL 96-22) which established the Department of Veterans Affairs sponsored Vietnam Vet Centers. These Vet Centers employ professionals trained to deal with the delay stress syndrome.
Establishing the "We Care About Vietnam Vets" Program
Each Echelon of JWV should appoint a Vietnam Era Veteran Coordinator (VEVC) who will serve as the contact with the nearest Vet Center.
The VEVC should arrange a meeting with the Vet Center's team leaders and counselors. Let them know of JWV 's sincere concern for the Vietnam Vet's problem and express a willingness to help in coordination with the Vet Center.
Invite the Vet Center Team Leader to speak at a Post meeting. The emphasis should be on information about the Vietnam veterans' readjustment problems, not the political problems of that war.
The initial contact should be handled with care and sensitivity. Work closely with the leaders and counselors, remember, they are professionals; always be ready to accept their suggestions.
Be prepared for difficulties. Do not become disenchanted. Due to their past experiences, many Vietnam vets find it difficult to trust strangers. Only through continuous involvement will your sincerity be accepted by unsure Vietnam Vets.
Remember, this is not a membership drive, but a true expression of concern and care for the veteran, the JWV's reason for existence.
The Action Phase
Initiate a VISITATION program to the Vet Centers. Serve refreshments or arrange a picnic. Check the schedule of the Vet Center; chose a time for these events that will allow more time for socializing. We caution all members that our presence at the Vet Center is not for the purpose of counseling, but rather to aid in the resocializing of Vietnam Vets. Also, do not try to solve Department of VA administrative problems by offering false hope. If in doubt, refer the questions to the Team Leader.
After relationships are established, invite Vietnam veterans to Post meetings of a social type. Even though these veterans may not be eligible for or desire active or even associate membership, these gatherings will provide an opportunity for them to interact with JWV members. Try to invite them as often as possible.
The success of the "We Care About Vietnam Vets" Program is dependent upon our acceptance of the JWV program's philosophy and our physical presence at the Vet Centers. After numerous visits and close involvement, a member may be asked to participate in group rap (counseling) sessions. It is imperative that this member understand the value they have placed upon the friendship and the responsibility that goes along with it.
Constant re-evaluation of JWV 's efforts will benefit the program. Also, keep National Headquarters informed of your Post's efforts, national can share your news with other Posts and possibly publish in The Jewish Veteran. Send news releases of your work to local media, this may encourage other veterans' groups to get involved in the Vet Center.
Use those Vietnam Era veterans who are members of your Post for assistance and guidance. Also, do not forget the JWV Vietnam Honor Roll, a listing of those Vietnam Veterans from your local community who participated in the Vietnam conflict. These names are published in The Jewish Veteran and are recorded in the National Museum of American Jewish Military History archives.