Presidio hosts annual vets 'homecoming'

September 26, 2009 5:43:28 PM PDT
On Saturday San Francisco's Presidio was transformed into a welcome home celebration for veterans. The event also had a larger purpose. It was a day for giving thanks and getting help.

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Hundreds of northern California veterans attended the celebration. The goal of the once-a-year event is to help vets readjust to life back home.

"It was a big transition, not only coming back from a war zone, but also getting out of the military. It's two different kinds of culture shocks," Iraq war vet Mike Ergo told ABC7.

Services to help vets find a job, go back to school and access health care were all under one roof on Saturday. The VA-sponsored program started in the Bay Area just last year. Veteran Brian Higgins could have used this kind of help 35 year ago when he returned from Vietnam.

"We didn't have a clue," he said. "We just kind of went home and tried to get back to our lives without knowing about the services."

The majority of the vets at the event were from the Army or National Guard. One of the reasons is because California has deployed more National Guard than any other state

"Reaching these men and women when they return from combat is very difficult because they immediately go back into their communities," explained Kerri Childress with the VA in Palo Alto.

That is why giving vets a central gathering spot now is crucial, especially in a time when 35 percent of returning vets suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Sisorder (PTSD).

"When you get back, you get out of the military, you're kind of on your own even if you have your family. A lot of people don't understand and it was just a really difficult time to readjust," recalled veteran Marabella Youkhaneh.

Musician John Mayer is trying to raise awareness about PTSD. He met with veterans and their families Saturday while reaffirming his commitment to them.

"I will do everything I can in my power to change and reframe the attitude of what it means to be a returning vet," he said.

A portion of the proceeds from Mayer's west coast tours will go toward PTSD research.

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