When planes full of soldiers land at Bush Intercontinental Airport, there are large groups of people there to meet them, waving flags, saying thank you, hugging and saluting these brave men and women who fought for America’s safety.
Yet, when their feet touch American soil, they are no longer soldiers but veterans. As they return to their abodes, greet family, friends and neighbors, they often exhale knowing they made it back, alive. But as night falls, it is time to take off the uniform, exposing their humanness, and their cold combat hearts begin to melt.
“These young men and women are good and decent people. They know how to love, care, feel compassion, empathy. Yet, in combat, their hearts go cold to survive and perform their duties that may include killing people-the enemy, but people all the same, being shot at, bombed, they see death and know fear. Returning home though, their combat hearts begin to melt and the horrors of what they have seen, come rushing back once they are home safe,” said Josh Fruen, Veteran’s Outreach Coordinator, Texana.
According to Fruen, what these young men and women have seen in war, they did not see for just one day, they saw it every day for two or more years. It makes an impression.
Fruen is a veteran, who almost did not make it home. In August 2003, Fruen and his unit were in Iraq, on their way to capture Saddam Hussein, when his armored Hummer collapsed a canal road. The truck rolled upside down into the water, Fruen and his crew trapped inside, and they drowned. Another Army vehicle saw what happened, stopped and the soldiers dove into the water.
“I was told I was pulled from the water after about 10 minutes. I was unresponsive and not breathing. CPR was started and finally I began to breathe, regained my composure and jumped back into the water to help pull my men out. The driver died but the gunner and I survived,” Fruen said.
Sergeant Fruen was medically evacuated to Fort Hood where he was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury from the accident. He never returned to his unit.
It’s been almost eight years since Fruen returned home, and it hasn’t been easy, but today, with a lot of help and specialized training, he is making a difference in the lives of other veterans.
“Texana has started a new program, a Peer-to-Peer group, where veterans come together and talk about their experiences with others who understand what they have seen in combat. This is not psychology. This is veterans who have found a way to cope and are now helping others find a way to cope too,” Fruen said.
The goal is for these veterans to find ways to return to as much of a normal life as possible and to be able to find a sense of safety in their daily routines. Simple acts many take for granted, such as going to the mall can be difficult for these veterans due to the crowds, which creates fear.
“I still have nightmares about drowning. I still get up many times during the night to make sure the doors and windows are locked. It’s still there, but I’m finding peace and I want to help other veterans cope with what they have experienced,” Fruen said.
It is different for every veteran, but most all have some degree of Post-Traumatic Stress, and Texana’s program is here to help, Fruen said.
“The VA in Houston is 35 miles away and not all veterans in Fort Bend are able to make it there on a regular basis, which makes our program more important. Yet, we do not just want to sit in a safe room and talk, I’d like to be able to take these veterans out to dinner, take them to the mall, to a baseball game – which is important in making the adjustments,” Fruen said.
Yet, taking these young veterans out is not in Texana’s budget and Fruen hopes people in the community will donate enough for a dinner for a veteran or for a ticket to a baseball game or something.
All veterans are invited to join the group. The first meeting will be held March 8th at 7pm, at the Texana main campus in Rosenberg. Other meetings are also scheduled. Those interested in attending, please call Josh Fruen, Veterans Outreach Coordinator, 281-750-9633.
Those interested in donating please visit www.texanacenter.com, to donate on line or mail donations to Texana, 4910 Airport Avenue, #B, Rosenberg, Tx 77471, or call 281-750-2541, please note on-line or on the check that the donations are for the veterans. All donations are tax deductible.