TACOMA, Wash. — Service members contact Trisha Pearce in need of counseling. Spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, relatives are welcome to get in touch with her, too. They may feel burnt out and worn down by the experience of fighting a war — or of loving someone who has. But Pearce and her Puget Sound area organization are completely outside the military chain of command.
“By the time people call us,” the psychiatric nurse said, “they’ve already tried to get help elsewhere. Or they just want to be away from the whole military system. Whatever their reason, we get them help.”
It’s the work of Soldiers Project NW, a 14-month-old program that aims to help veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who, for whatever reason, aren’t comfortable using the numerous mental-health programs the military medical system provides.
Pearce asks for basic information and links the caller with a nearby therapist, who offers free sessions. The military isn’t notified. Pearce, who has 30 years experience in the mental health field, has been the project’s director for the past six months. She organizes meetings every few weeks to draw support from area therapists.