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2016 October 24 - 04:24 pm

Veteran Has PTSD, and Desire To Help Others

Purple Heart Recipient Counsels Veterans at Illinois College

KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) — Michael Le Buhn thought he was “fine” when he returned from a tour of duty in Iraq around Christmas 2007.

But the rigors of war, made more intense by the fact he was injured in a blast, which earned him a Purple Heart, left him in a mental shape that was anything but OK. The U.S. Army veteran had great difficulty sleeping, and when he was able to doze off, he encountered “horrible” nightmares.

To cope with the problem, Le Buhn, now 32, began self-medicating and his life took a downward spiral. Then, he sought help for his problem, and was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He was able to regain control, and currently spends much of his time helping others who also suffer from PTSD.

Le Buhn now is working as both a writing instructor and veterans’ consultant at Kankakee Community College. He also is a comedian who performs regularly at a couple of Champaign clubs.

But regardless of what role he is in, his goal is largely the same.

“I fight as a comedian; I fight as a veteran and I fight as a veterans’ consultant,” Le Buhn said.

These days, he carries a message, rather than a gun, to wage the battle. By sharing his experiences, he has helped his brethren share as well, and he said the ability to open up is a key tool in curbing a problem that has become all too common among veterans — suicide.

“Veterans who are engaged and part of a mission are much less likely to commit suicide,” Le Buhn said.

Why is opening the channels of communication so important? Statistics cited by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimate 22 veterans commit suicide each day. In 2014, 18 percent of the suicides committed by all U.S. adults involved veterans, 7,403 in all.

Le Buhn was a clergyman at the Church of God Worship Center in Bradley before he left the profession when he joined the Army in 2005. His spiritual background does play a role in his current feelings about war, but the opinion largely was honed through his experience in Iraq.

“Don’t misunderstand me, I’m proud of my service,” he said. “But, hopefully, we’ll be more cautious about rushing into war.”

Le Buhn is not a complete pacifist, but said his reluctance concerning war is shared by many who similar to him, served in combat.

“Anybody who has been to war should (feel this way),” he said. “We have a natural instinct to protect each other. War is unnatural.”

Even without a military background, Le Buhn said the general public can help those vets who suffer from PTSD, and they are not all that difficult to identify.

“We are the ones that will never sit with our back to the door,” he said. “We are the ones standing out in front of the stores smoking.”

Veterans seeking support can find it at KCC, which, with the help of a $21,000 grant through Prevention Institute and Movember Foundation, has enhanced its already active assistance program.

Outreach has been performed in a number of ways, and the college is on the cusp of opening a Veterans Center. It will be located on the second floor and will provide a variety of services.

“We have tried to build a cohesive unit among veterans,” Le Buhn said. “Many of them don’t know anyone when they come here. We connect them with someone who can help.”

The college is eager to provide more help, said Cari Stevenson, a KCC psychology veteran who has taken a particular interest in veterans affairs and has worked closely with Le Buhn.

“Our district serves 18,000 veterans,” Stevenson said.”We typically have around 200 veterans enrolled as students.” That’s a number Stevenson would like to see increase.

Information from: The Daily Journal, http://www.dailyjournal.com

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