Service and Sacrifice: Young Maine Veterans Receive Life Saving Care

(NEWS CENTER) -- “I was ignoring everyone in my life.  My family, my wife, who’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” 26 year old US Army Veteran Kevin Demmons shares.  “I was spending a lot of time in my basement alone, away from everyone and everything.”

“I was really depressed,” explains US Navy Veteran Callie Johnson.  “And, went through a rough time.” 

Kevin Demmons and Callie Johnson share many common themes:  they both entered the military young and enthusiastic.

“I was a mortarman infantryman, so I carried a 16-millimeter mortar tube on top of all my other gear,” Demmons describes.

“I was 17 when I joined and 18 when I left.  Yeah, so it was just the thing to do, I guess,” Johnson shares.  “My brother was in the Navy, too, so I kind of followed in his footsteps a little.”

Both got out of the service, broken, lost.  Each carrying big issues they weren’t dealing with.

“(I) Pretty much just got in the car and left.  I didn’t know what else to do because I was just drowning, you could say,” Callie Johnson explained.  For ten years she lived this way;  running away from her military experience, her military nightmare.

While it wasn’t running away for Kevin Demmons, it was sticking with a job that challenged him.  “I just knew I needed to make money to provide, so that’s what I did.  I noticed a lot of things coming up.  Anxiety, just not wanting to be around people at all, um, so in that environment, I lasted about six months.”  Demmons says he jumped from job to job.  “There was a time when I couldn’t pay my bills and I was close to losing my home and things like that due to mortgage and stuff like that.”  Kevin Demmons was close to losing his very supportive wife, too.  He reached out first to the VA, then to Easter Seals of Maine and their Military and Veteran Services program.  “And Easter Seals was there, they paid my bills for me, so that’s the biggest blessing I can think of,” Demmons said, crediting Easter Seals with saving his life.

For Callie, who needed help with finding both a job and housing, the first critical step was talk therapy with one of the care coordinators.  “The first time I came here, she was the first person I met and she sat up with me for three hours and made me cry.  Not made me cry but got me talking and stuff,” she said with a degree of relief in her voice.

“If you can relieve that stress and anxiety for one or dozens of veterans, that’s a great thing,” U.S. Navy Veteran Charlie Summers proffered.  Summers heads up Easter Seals of Northern New England.  “Sometimes the VA, it seems so far away, so distant to people that they don’t take the time to find out what they need and that’s where Veterans Count Military Veteran Services can kind of come in and help patch those cracks in the system and be there for them.”

And for Callie Johnson, that has been a godsend.  “For the most part, I’ve felt a lot better.  I’ve had some days that were not so good but for the most part I think this is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

For Kevin Demmons , just getting honest with himself has allowed him to begin the process of healing.  “Admitting that something’s wrong with you is a tough thing.  Um, it really is,” he explains.  “When I come home, I’m happier.  I think she (Demmons’ wife) notices that.”

Summers, who took over as Executive Director of Easter Seals in summer 2016, says the program “takes a level of stress and anxiety out of someone’s life so they can kind of exhale and look at the larger picture.”  He calls his role in helping them most rewarding. 

For information on the Easter Seals Military and Veterans Services, or to contact a care coordinator, call Stacy at (207) 828-0754 extension 1004, or email her at sleet@eastersealsme.org.
 

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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