Members of the U.S. military are returning home just about every week now, and we've seen more attention given to those who are hurt. But some of the most devastating wounds are those you can't see.
Video of the joyful reunions between loved ones after a long deployment are often all too brief.
"At first, there's a great hoopla and welcoming home, but after that, people are alone. It's almost like a death in the family. Everybody walks out and leaves the widow or the widower to sit and grieve," said Theodore Britton Jr., former U.S. ambassador to Barbados.
Hundreds of mental health professionals packed the Nashville Public Library on Tuesday for a day-long seminar on how to break the cycle of depression, one that, if ignored, can lead to unemployment, homelessness and incarceration.
"They're sometimes like time bombs waiting to go off unless we show them compassion, some kind of understanding and a willingness to come to those people, to reassure them," Britton said.
And who could blame them? Some veterans have seen the unthinkable, and then they return to civilian life.
Rick DelaHaya retired from the Air Force after 21 years at the top of his game. That's when he says reality struck.
"Once you leave, it's hard to remember that you're no longer that top dog. Now you're starting out with everybody else. I mean, I was competing with 22-year-olds fresh out of college. That's something hard," DelaHaya said.
Right now, a lot of time and effort is being focused on the mental health issues of veterans that have been largely ignored for decades.
"They're like your family, and then it's done. They give you a retirement ceremony, a flag, a plaque, a pat on the back and then they send you on your way. So, you're not really prepared for life after the military," DelaHaya said.
The seminar included advice on how veterans' friends and family members can tap into resources to help the transition back to civilian life a little less stressful.
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