Vets invite others, civilian contractors, to new oasis at mall
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on May 8, 2012
The World May 8, 2012
NORTH BEND — Vietnam veterans who came together years ago to help each other cope with the trauma of war hope to use their combined experiences to help modern veterans after they’ve returned home.
‘We saw the need for veterans coming back,” said Steve Hilton, a Vietnam veteran who helped found the new group. ‘It is a hard transition from the military back into civilian life.”
The group had the idea for years, but didn’t have a centralized, neutral location to meet until January, when they gathered enough donations to rent an upstairs room at Pony Village Mall.
The walls of the new Forward Operating Base 101 are covered with posters, plaques, maps, ribbons and American flags.
The group meets every Thursday night at 6:30, and starting this week, it will host a Wednesday night meeting just for veterans of modern wars, from the 1980s on.
‘A lot of the younger guys have trouble relating to the older, Vietnam veterans,” said Andy Osborn, who will host the gathering for the younger veterans.
Osborn, who served in Iraq from 2005 to 2007, said once the veterans make it to the group, they often find it easy to relate to the older veterans, like Hilton, who served in the Vietnam War.
‘When we came back we didn’t have places to go,” Hilton said. ‘We feel compelled to help these guys who are coming back now. Through our experiences we can give advice, let them know they are not alone.”
Osborn said veterans from all branches of the military are welcome. He also welcomes people who worked as civilian contractors in modern war zones.
Osborn worked in Iraq as a police advisor, training Iraqi police officers, for a civilian contractor hired by the State Department. Although he was not enlisted in the military, he saw combat, and often worked and fought alongside soldiers. And he returned home to face the same difficulties readjusting.
‘Nothing could prepare me for how hard it was going to be coming back,” he said.
He was nervous to attend a FOB gathering, he said, worried the others wouldn’t accept him as a veteran; worried the group would be therapy; worried he would be looked down on.
When Osborn finally did attend the group meetings, ‘It got a lot better for me,” he said. ‘It is what helped me make the final step back into society.”