Colusa County Behavioral Health reached out to local veterans with a Veterans Luncheon on Monday, November 30, 2015, in the Sankey Auto Company showroom.
A dozen County veterans attended the event in which the County hopes to reach out to local veterans and rid the stigma of mental illness.
“We wanted to host an event to say ‘Thank You’ to our veterans, and to reach out to them and raise awareness about the mental health issues our veterans face and the resources available to them,” said Senaida Rangel, Colusa County Department of Behavioral Health, MHSA Coordinator.
Sgt. Alejandro Jauregui was the guest speaker giving a grim look into an experience he had of losing one of his comrades during his tour in Afghanistan.
“You don’t get to go home after an incident like that,” said Sgt. Jauregui, “You have to continue your mission.”
“Even though you’ve done everything right, you always ask yourself what can I have done differently – that is the question that never leaves you – your always going to feel guilty because you lost one of your guys. Because you were the guy in charge, you planned the route, you are the one in control, so you’re never going to stop beating yourself up.” Sgt. Jauregui commented, “The reason I choose to talk about this incident is because, in one way, I am honoring the soldier I lost and because I am telling the story, and I know a lot of guys don’t talk about stuff – but how do you can you expect the community to understand us if the don’t know our experiences.”
Sgt. Jauregui also spoke about his frustrations with the V.A. and gave his opinion on an effort for a solution.
“I have been to counselors with the V.A., and they don’t seem to understand or have that connection,” said Jauregui, “I think it is up to our community of veterans to counsel each other.”
Sgt. Jauregui expressed his journey with a support group he found in Woodland that has given him help.
“We have a barbecue where it is just combat guys only, and it’s a great environment because even though we have different stories we all have had the similar experiences,” said Sgt. Jauregui.
“I have made connections with some great people,” said Sgt. Jauregui, “and recently during Veterans Day a buddy of mine was killed in Afghanistan and I was having a tough time with it, a guy I know from the support group just called me up and invited me out hunting. It got my mind off the topic and pulled me out of that dark spot.”
“As veterans, it is up to us to pick up our guys and not just let it be,” said Jauregui.
Colusa County VFW Post 2441 Commander, Bill Tanner, commented that he thought it would be a great idea to start a veterans support group at the Veterans Hall and asked if Sgt. Jauregui would like to assist.
“The best support we can have is to each other,” said Rangel, “that is why we are doing this event – to raise awareness and to talk about those issues that are prevalent in our communities.”
Rangel added that since she has begun her outreach quest within county she has learned the different stories of how mental health has impacted the lives of many of the counties residents.
“We have lost 14 individuals from death by suicide since 2013,” said Rangel, “That number includes a wide range of ages, veterans, non-veterans, Hispanic – and that’s a large number for our community.”
The Chico Vet Center brought out its Mobile Vet Center to provide a gateway to necessary services for veterans.
“The Vet Center Program was designed by Vietnam Vets, back in the late 70’s, when they were not getting the welcome home they deserve,” said Wes Shockley of the Chico Vet Center, “It started out as a peer group, veterans-helping-veterans and it has evolved into a service for combat veterans – that is who we serve is the combat veterans.”
The goal of the Chico Vet Center is to provide a broad range of counseling, outreach, and referral services to eligible veterans to help them make a satisfying post-war readjustment to civilian life. The Chico Vet Center also provides bereavement counseling services to surviving parents, spouses, children, and siblings of service members who die of any cause while on active duty.
Colusa County Veterans Service Officer, Don Parsons, commented that veterans need to get involved with their community.
“Veterans need to get involved with their local VFW or American Legion organizations,” said Parsons, “by getting out and being around other veterans can be a big help in dealing with things.”
Parsons also commented that many veterans organizations can help refer programs and services to help with their needs.
Rangel added that she wanted to thank Paul and Kathy Sankey for the use of their showroom for the event.
“Let’s make this an annual thing,” said Kathy Sankey, “I want to thank you all for your service to our country, we appreciate for all that you’ve done and do.”
Additionally, Rangel thanked Sacramento River Fire, Country Stop, Burger King in Colusa, the Veterans BBQ Committee and employees for the Colusa County Department of Public Health for providing various items for the event.