“Serving Those Who Serve” Sparks Dialogue within the San Diego Military Community

The San Diego military community united last night at “Serving Those Who Serve” to learn ways to promote wellness in their lives. More than 100 veterans, active duty and their family members attended the event at the San Diego Air & Space Museum to hear from John Roberts of Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and a panel comprised of veterans and mental health experts moderated by KGTV reporter, Bob Lawrence. The event also included a wellness resource fair with 25 local organizations.

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San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and later shared his story about how mental health challenges have tragically affected his family. With conviction, he spoke about the importance of supporting San Diego’s veteran community and how that begins with reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Guest speaker John Roberts shared his struggle with severe post traumatic stress disorder and what his organization is doing at the national level to help promote wellness. He also spoke about the importance of veterans learning how to ask for help and encouraged national, state and county level organizations to work together to provide warriors the help they need.

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Joining Roberts for a panel discussion were Maurice Wilson of National Veterans Transition Services, Barbara Padilla fromCourage to Call, McCail Smith, Jr. of the Mental Health Advocacy Council for VA Medical Center La Jolla, veteran and Veterans Affair chaplain Larry Taylor and combat veteran Giovanny Penate. During the 45-minute discussion and Q&A session, panelists emphasized the importance of encouraging open dialogue about mental illness as a critical first step in reducing stigma associated with mental illness.

Panelist Maurice Wilson shared the importance of sitting down with veterans and getting to know them. He says:

We need your confidence, your assurances to help bring us back because we have gone some place you have never gone.

Veterans Affairs Chaplain Larry Taylor who has struggled with PTSD and says he is a “work in progress,” stressed the importance of providing veterans facing a mental health challenge a new vision.

I want them to just see what it might be like to be a recovering mental health victim, a PTSD victim, a depressed victim, a substance dependent victim. If you can just see that and have a vision for that, you will realize that the recovery process is worth it.

McCail Smith, Jr. who actively volunteers to help the veterans’ community spoke of the importance of volunteering to help other veterans. He said providing service isn’t just for veterans, but also for the individual.

Attendees were encouraged to continue the dialogue about how to support wellness in the military community and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.  All guests were encouraged to join the Each Mind Matters movement and submit their pledge.

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