“We provide services to a very specific veteran population and that is combat veterans and their families.”
LouAnn Engle is a Readjustment Counseling Service Manager with the Veterans Administration. She’s taking a look around the new 3,000 square-foot facility just off of FM 1960 West near Veterans Memorial. It’s the third Vet Center in Houston.
“We’re doing a little upgrading, a little more window-dressing if you will. We’re moving our facilities into very safe areas so that women, especially grandparents who are then raising children, feel warm and comfortable coming to us and participating in our programs.”
Those free programs include counseling for post traumatic stress disorder, marital and family issues and help in the basic day-to-day challenges of readjusting to regular life. It’s not something vets are always anxious to be a part of.
“It’s been part of the tradition in the military of we take care of our own and I’m really strong and I don’t need any help, but we’re trying to change that face, getting rid of the stigma for asking for help, getting people to come in and be a part of our family.”
One of the goals of the new vet center is to attract younger combat veterans, those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marcus Smith is an outreach specialist for the Vet Centers here in Houston and says the goal is to reach veterans quickly.
“We don’t want to repeat the trends that went on with Vietnam. We don’t want people going on without getting care. So, that’s why they created my position. I’m an Iraqi veteran, so it takes one to know one, so we figure that the pure mentoring aspect of it will definentely be beneficial for the Vet Centers and getting these guys and gals in.”
Ken Leigh fought in Vietnam in the 1970’s and had been going to a Vet Center in Conroe. He’ll now use the new center and will encourage others to as well.
“Whenever I see one, I always make it a point to go up and introduce myself and tell them how proud I am of them and I ask them do you know what support groups are out here for you and I tell them about the Vet Center, that they can go seek help. I try to encourage them to at least get together with someone and discuss what their needs are so they can be led in the right direction.”
The new Spring-area Vet Center is one of 15 in Texas and 271 nationwide.