Local veterans are hoping a documentary they plan to show on Saturday sheds more light on the mental health challenges facing many of their peers who have returned from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I am really moved by this issue, it’s heart-rending,” said Jim Hutton, commander of the Gildo Consolini Post 3272 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Many of them can’t work, they lose their families. It’s unbelievable.”
The post is screening the 2015 documentary “Thank You For Your Service” on Saturday at the Avon Senior Center. The film examines the military’s response to mental health problems among veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hutton said he attended a ceremony at Central Connecticut State University to present a scholarship from the post to a young veteran who was enrolled at CCSU and was given a flier about the documentary. Then he saw it himself.
“I was aware of post-traumatic stress disorder and that veterans were committing suicide, but there are eight to 10 mental health issues that effect veterans,” Hutton said. “A guy gets wounded and three days later he is getting first-class medical treatment, but guys with mental health issues don’t have that same level of support.”
In recent years, the post has focused on helping younger veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. That includes giving grants to veterans service centers at CCSU and Tunxis Community College, as well as scholarships for those attending CCSU. Hutton said that work helped him get a better understanding of the struggles facing many young veterans.
“One young man came to our weekly breakfasts, he had been out of the service for two years and he still could not hold down a job,” Hutton said.
Saturday’s screening is open to the public.
“I am hoping there will be more awareness of what our leaders need to do and community support for what we need to do for veterans,” said Maria Mascoli, a tutor at Avon High School who has helped organize the VFW post’s annual Veterans Day events at the school. “We really need to focus on veterans throughout the year.”
The film will be followed by a panel discussion that will be facilitated with help from the Farmington Valley Health District through its “Resiliance Grows Here” mental health initiative.
Saturday’s event starts at 6:30 p.m. and the movie will be shown at 7 p.m. Organizers said the panel discussion begins at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for veterans while student veterans are free. The ticket price includes refreshments. The senior center is at 635 West Avon Road.