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Free Counseling for Vets, Families

On Veterans Day, we often pause to think about the sacrifice of soldiers, especially those in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When they return from war, they can face significant mental health challenges. Often, it's more than the soldiers who need help: Families also need psychological support. Army Reserve and National Guard families are in a unique position because they lack the support of a military base community.

Shirley Burke lives in Salem and says she felt scared and lonely while her husband Phillip served two tours of duty in Iraq. "Every night you go to bed and you say am i going to get a phone call tonight," Burke says, "A knock on the door, that's how we live every day."

Burke found help with a free counseling group called " SOFAR," or Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists. She says SOFAR's mental health professionals let her talk about her fear of losing her husband, something she didn't think her neighbors could relate to.

Counselors also go to group meetings of Army Reservists and National Guard families. Air Force veteran Richard Moody of Danvers runs a family support group.

He invited SOFAR to speak about the isolation that families feel when a family member is deployed. Moody says, "At any minute we could be killed. And that's a level of stress that you can't explain to people that don't understand it. What happens is that almost everybody that comes back is changed. And when they change, the people back home need to be addressed as to how to cope, how to handle that."

SOFAR's 70 volunteers meet with individuals and family groups in Boston and throughout New England. The organization's Co-Directors Ken Reich and Jaine Darwin join WBUR's Bob Oakes in conversation this morning.

This program aired on November 12, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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