Thursday, December 18, 2014

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"Family to Family" program offers support to veterans' families

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: "Family to Family" program offers support to veterans' families
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One in three soldiers returning home is being diagnosed with PTSD. Less than 40 percent will get help, and that takes a toll on both the troop and the family. As our Katie Gibas reports, that's why the VA offers an annual class to support family members and caregivers of veterans.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Cheri Caiella knows the indirect wounds of war all too well. Her son was deployed to Iraq in 2007. When he came home, he was a different person.

"There was a van parked across the street from our house. My son noticed the van and noticed that it was older and noticed was looking top heavy or back heavy and was fearful that they had loaded it with IED material," said Cheri Caiella, a veteran's mother and teacher in the "Family to Family" program.

Caiella's son, like many veterans, was diagnosed with PTSD.

"It was challenging and heartbreaking and you want to help but you don't know how to help," said Caiella.

And that heartbreak and helplessness took a toll on Caiella's entire family. That's why when she heard about the VA's Family to Family support program for veterans' loved ones, she and her husband enrolled immediately.

"We seeing these war injuries trickle down through families and we've never recognized it maybe like we do now. In hopes of taking the best possible care of our veterans as we can, we want to take care of our families," said Ann Canastra, the VA Recovery Coordinator.

The 12-week program teaches families and caregivers about all sorts of issues veterans face when they return home, including PTSD, other mental health concerns and treatment options. And those who have gone through the program say it's helped them to better care for their loved ones.

"You have others who are in similar or like situations, so you don't feel so alone and abandoned. And it empowered us to be able to reach out and advocate for not only our son but others," said Caiella.

Caiella says there are still challenges, but through the program, she's been been given something that initially seemed out of her reach: Hope.

The VA is hoping to offer this course twice a year in Syracuse. They're also working to start the program up in the Watertown - Fort Drum community.

The Family to Family program is free and you can still sign up for the next three weeks.

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