Tribute to Veterans to Highlight Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The 2008 Houston Freedom Fest is more than just a tribute to Houston military veterans. The event at Discovery Green will raise awareness to a medical condition that is affecting soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat Hernandez has the story.
The Veterans Administration reports Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is affecting more and more soldiers returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr Robert Garza: "That's definitely a concern and something that we want to screen for in veteran soldiers coming back."

Dr Robert Garza is staff psychiatrist and medical director of the Trauma Recovery Program at Houston's VA Hospital. He says anyone who is exposed to life-threatening events like combat, is at risk for developing PTSD. It manifests itself to a constellation of symptoms.

Garza: "Nightmares, forms of re-experiencing the trauma, intrusive thoughts where the veteran states that he or she is thinking about the event on many occasions, despite attempts to avoid thinking about the event, any kind of avoidance of reminders of the event."

Dr Garza says it's often difficult for returning soldiers to stop and take time to come in and get the help that they need. Retired NAVY Captain Jim Mehrmann co-chairs the Houston Freedom Fest. He was diagnosed with PTSD after Vietnam.

"It's easy to see those who have lost limbs and their suffering. But seeing those who suffer with PTSD is sometimes more difficult, because some of these will be very deep. In my case, I had recessed it very much. Again, over a period of time there was healing, but recessing it, you have to bring it up. That's part of that spiritual aspect of confronting it."

He says the mission of Houston Freedom Fest is serving our veterans and meeting their needs on a personal relationship level.

"We will have booths from the government, Veterans Administration, Texas Veterans Commission, Texas Veterans Land Office. We will have clinics that are in support of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, members of the VA, our core hospital will be there, we will have the ability to help counsel with these. We'll have some churches available with counseling, military ministries will be here."

VA psychiatrist Dr Robert Garza says the event will serve as an excellent education tool:

"By educating people about this disorder, we can all be more aware, and perhaps encourage our returning soldiers to come for help."

The event takes place from 11am to 8pm with family activities all day, a Veterans tribute and a concert.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.

For more information, visit the Houston Freedom Fest Web site.
Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez


Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...