Group offers support for veterans

Larry Vaught put his life on the line for his country in Vietnam, running a machine gun in one of the longest-running, bloodiest wars.

After his tour of duty was up, another battle began — this time with drinking.

Now a recovering alcoholic, Vaught, who served in the Marines for three years, draws from his own experiences in running a support group for veterans dealing with drug or alcohol addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues.

“It’s pretty difficult to stay mired in your own difficulties in life if you’re helping someone else,” he said. “And I don’t feel like God is going to hand anyone a cross that’s too large to bear.”

The group meets from

8-9 p.m. Tuesdays at Rock Point Church and is open to men who have served in peacetime or combat. An Army veteran who served in Afghanistan co-facilitates the meetings.

As many as a dozen men typically attend, including veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf War and Vietnam. The former military personnel discuss a variety of faith-based topics.

While peer-support groups have not been proven to reduce PTSD symptoms, advocates like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs say sharing stories with others may help veterans feel more comfortable talking about their trauma.

The National Center for PTSD says 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom have experienced symptoms in a given year.

For Vietnam veterans, the rate jumps to an estimated 30 percent who have had symptoms, according to the center. Between 60-80 percent of Vietnam veterans seeking treatment for PTSD have alcohol use problems, the center says.