Vet Center readjustment counselor Nathan Ferguson helps groups and individuals with military veteran resources and counseling.
Military veterans returning from the service often face a number of obstacles. For combat veterans in particular, these obstacles can seem overwhelming.
Nathan Ferguson is a readjustment counselor for the Vet Center, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The East St. Louis-based center serves the Metro East, including Alton, Edwardsville, Wood River, Cottage Hills and Bethalto. The organization serves combat veterans with service-related issues as well as providing resource assistance for non-combat veterans.
Ferguson outlines a list of issues veterans encounter.
“There are often services and resources available they are not aware of or do not know how to access,” he said. “Many veterans, Vietnam-era soldiers as well as recent ones, can be dealing with problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other emotional or psychological issues.”
Ferguson helps veterans across the spectrum of challenges they may be struggling with. He can help them to find and participate in job fairs as well as work with them on their resumés and in obtaining veterans benefits.
“A military resumé is usually very different from a civilian resumé,” he said.
He said those used to military structure often have bullet-pointed and terse resumés.
“When looking for civilian jobs, the resumé will need to be more charismatic and descriptive and we can help people with that,” he said.
He assists combat veterans with compensation and pension issues, helping them understand how to file paperwork and what information is needed.
“The applications process can feel invasive and threatening,” he said. “We can help them understand how to navigate that process and why certain information is needed.”
Ferguson makes the point that the difficulties transitioning from combat situations to civilian life are something people who have not experienced combat seldom appreciate.
“Behaviors that are necessary simply to survive in a combat environment do not translate well to civilian life,” he explained. “Behavior that is normalized and desirable in combat situations is perceived as hyper-vigilant in civilian life and can be met with distrust and fear.”
Ferguson works extensively with victims of post-traumatic stress disorder through facilitation of group and individual counseling sessions.
“It often takes people many years to even realize they are suffering from PTSD,” he said.
He facilitates a regular session where veterans meet at the Cottage Hills VFW and is looking to start other groups throughout the Metro East wherever there is interest and a need.
“We want to go wherever the veterans are,” he said. “These sessions are places where veterans of all eras can reconnect and receive support.”
At a Welcome Home Warrior summit May 13-14 in St. Louis, returning veterans from Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn as well as their families can get information about resources and assistance. It will be one of the largest St. Louis events ever to honor and assist veterans.
Anyone interested in attending the summit or participating in local meetings, getting one-on-one assistance or starting new groups should contact Ferguson at (618) 397-6602. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.