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Speaker delivers difficult but 'very, very important' Veterans' Day message

'You need to know the look of need on their face'

Lapeer County Young Marines were one of many organizations represented at the Orion Veterans’ Memorial Nov. 11 during a Veterans’ Day ceremony honoring the men and women who serve. From left, YMPVT Sean Klein, YMSGT Jennifer Mausolf and YMSGT Kanen Bailey replace their caps after an invocation. Please see more from the event our print edition. Photo by Laura Colvin (click for larger version)

November 17, 2010 - The community came out strong to honor veterans last week at the Orion Veterans Memorial, and a number of community organizations took part in the ceremony.

The Blue Star Mothers placed a wreath, the Church Street Singers sang, and Boy Scout Troop 128 led the pledge.

But it was retired Air Force Major Rick Briggs who gave the crowd something to think about as they headed home Nov. 11.

"When more men and women (of the military) have committed suicide than have been killed in combat, something is wrong," he said. "The divorce rate is going through the roof, our prisons and our criminal justice are filled with veterans who are having difficulty coping with the stressors and the traumatic brain injuries of war."

Briggs, who is the program director for a project dubbed "Invisible Wounds" gave the Veterans day address in Orion, and painted a grim picture about the reality for many veterans returning from war.

"It is very, very important that, after a war that far exceeds World War II in duration, we understand we have troops on their seventh and eighth deployment," he said. "That's a lot of combat operations. That's a lot of wear and tear on anybody."

The Invisible Wounds Project was created to give wounded warriors a voice, the organization's website says, and to challenge the stigma surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

And continuing to work toward that goal appeared to be Brigg's mission in Orion last week.

"It's very important to know and understand the difference," he said. "A traumatic brain injury is a physical assault. It is no different than breaking an arm. PTSD is post-traumatic stress disorder. It's a psychological response to a stressor-induced activity. It's a normal response to an abnormal situation, and it's every bit as severe (as a traumatic brain injury). You can get PTSD standing here on the street; it is not a combat-only injury."

When men and women come home and they're struggling with these issues, Briggs told the crowd, family, friends and members of the community in general need to recognize the problem. It's often exceedingly difficult, he explained, for a veteran to step up and say 'I need help.'

"You need to know the look of need on their face, you need to recognize that," he said. "They're in your churches. They're your neighbors. They may be in your family. You need to ask them if they need help."

And finally: "Lets pledge that, in the state of Michigan every day will be Veterans Day," Briggs said. "So much that needs to be done. There are veterans out there that need your help."

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