During the Fourth of July next week, millions of us across the country will celebrate our nation’s birth with family and perhaps some socially-distanced friends. While we enjoy the freedoms and protections that make our country the greatest in the world, it is also important that we honor those brave Americans who risk everything to defend them and keep us safe.
The month of June is PTSD Awareness Month, reminding us of our commitment to serving those who serve us. After leaving the military, some veterans find themselves fighting new battles on the home front, with PTSD affecting up to 30% of veterans who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. Over 57,500 veterans call our District home, and Tarrant County has the fourth-largest veteran population among all 254 counties in Texas. I’m proud to be part of a community that appreciates our veterans as much as I do: our District is home to numerous veterans’ service organizations that help our heroes navigate civilian life, career transitions, and service-related health issues like PTSD. The Tarrant County Veterans Service Office has a strong program for helping veterans heal from PTSD, for which it has professional counselors and a staff of veterans from all branches of the military, some who understand PTSD firsthand. The Tarrant County Veterans Service Office has helped thousands of veterans of wars going back as far as World War Two with managing PTSD, as well as our police and firefighters.
Underscoring that our community’s first responders also face danger and trauma in their public service, the local nonprofit the Block Foundation helps veterans, police, and firefighters alike with PTSD find the right treatment program best suited to their needs, assists with the intake process, and sometimes provides financial support. Earlier this year, I met with one of the Block Foundation’s founding members, North Richland Hills fire captain Adam Pendergrass, and affirmed my support to working in Washington to secure our first responders more of the supplies and the health and safety protections that they deserve.
As the coronavirus pandemic persists, our healthcare workers on the frontlines of the fight have faced unprecedented stress and risks beyond those to their physical health. Another local nonprofit, 22 Kill, started with a focus on helping veterans with PTSD through traditional and non-traditional therapies, and soon expanded to also treating police and firefighters. Now, the group also helps our community’s frontline healthcare responders during the coronavirus, and has begun operating a 24-hour-a-day PTSD help line for veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, and healthcare workers alike.
As we conclude PTSD Awareness Month and look forward to the Fourth of July, let’s continue to honor those who paid a high price in the fight for freedom, and those who keep us safe and healthy. As our community unites to overcome a time of sickness, let’s not forget that some of our veterans—as well as our police, firefighters, and frontline healthcare workers—also face another kind of invisible enemy every day.