By MARIANNE PATON, firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: June 3, 2009
Thanks to Operation Open Arms, soldiers visiting Lee County can now seek assistance with coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder free of charge. Earlier this year, OOA founder Capt. John “Giddyup” Bunch put out a call to area counselors for their help with a growing problem among members of the military. “In January of this year, I had read that more of our soldiers were dying from self-inflicted wounds than all of those kill in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan combined and I knew I had to do something about it,” he said. “I then began calling area therapists to enlist their help and now we have a great team that will provide counseling pro bono.” According to Bunch, members of the military can obtain counseling through the Veteran’s Administration, but the soldier would have to clear the need for treatment with his or her superior officer, wade through a mountain a paper work and possibly face the threat of the negative stigmatizement commonly associated to those who are in need of mental health treatment. “In addition to avoiding the sigmatism frequently attached to any mental health issue, these soldiers are on leave for a limited time and often times are made to make a co-payment for services provided by the VA.” he said. “Our program is completely confidential and won’t cost the soldier a dime.” During a gathering Friday at the Tarpon Lodge in Pineland, Bunch not only recognized the nearly dozen mental health practitioners for their participation but his fleet of fishing guides as well.