TOWNSEND -- Not all wounds are visible. Some injuries live on the inside, tormenting the bearer with a pain unknown to those around him. But just because they cannot be seen doesn't make them any less real, or any less harmful, than those that scar the flesh.
It is this awareness that the Blue Star Mothers are trying to spread, said the Massachusetts Chapter 1 co-president Maureen O'Gorman of Townsend.
The Blue Star Mothers is a group of moms of military members, those parents who have had to bid farewell to their children heading out to fight for the country. The group, which has been around since the Civil War, is sanctioned by the Department of Defense. Their mission is to support each other, their children fighting and their children's spouses and children.
"Unfortunately, we've all gotten to be very good at deployments with the 10-year war cycle we're in," said O'Gorman.
O'Gorman's son Daniel just turned 25 and is already a two-tour war veteran, having served in the Army and fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And although this may not be the case with her own son, not everyone returning from overseas is finding relief or comfort; many still deal with inner turmoil as a result of their war zone experiences.
"In the last couple of months, we're really finding we have so many issues with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress," said O'Gorman.
With many veterans having been home for months and continuing to struggle with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, the Blue Star Mothers are spreading the message: There is help.
"Even though our focus has always been on deployment and each other, we're finding the need to let our military community know some services are out there, not only for veterans but for their families," said O'Gorman.
On Sunday, March 3, Blue Star Mothers of Massachusetts Chapter 1 will play host to representatives from the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program.
The event will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Leominster Veterans Center at 100 West St. in Leominster. It is open to veterans, their families and community members. Interested parties can RSVP to O'Gorman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Home Base Program will present a program to discuss "invisible wounds" of veterans and provide information on how to seek help from those who struggle with them as well as their families.
"There are so many out there," said O'Gorman.
The Home Base Program reached out to the Blue Star Mothers about holding the informational session. The program began with the World Series wins of the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and again in 2007. After both wins, members of the Red Sox, along with representatives from Mass General, traveled to the Walter Reed Medical Center to visit injured veterans. It was these meetings and conversations with veterans that ultimately resulted in a collaborative effort to support the military community.
Its main purpose is to serve veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and combat stress. There are three main categories that the program focuses on: clinical care for those suffering from invisible wounds, community education and outreach and finally research.
O'Gorman describes PTSD and traumatic brain injuries as the "silent wounds of war."
From her interactions with other family members of military personnel, she said one of the biggest issues she hears of is reintegration. Stress can result from something like a coming home party to traveling over a bridge in a car. And often, veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries don't know to whom they can turn.
"When (veterans) come back home, they don't go back to the base where their neighbors know what they've been through," she said.
That's why, said O'Gorman, it's important that they know they can turn to the Home Base Program. The counselors involved in the program are themselves veterans.
"They want to speak to other veterans, to speak to somebody who knows what they've been through," said O'Gorman. "We need to let them know that these services are out there."
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