Support services for returning combat veterans

Don Higgins
Don Higgins

Elise Preston
NewsChannel 10

AMARILLO, TX - Thousands of returning combat veterans in our area are being under served, but they don't have to be.

In 1969, a then 19-year-old Don Higgins enlisted in the Marine Corps and spent nearly 18 months in Vietnam.

"Having to deal with the people in Vietnam, having to deal with war, my head being on a swivel, I just had to reintegrate myself into civilian life." said Higgins.

When he returned to Amarillo, he says he lived in a shell and on edge, as he was on constant guard for an ambush like those he experienced during war. It wasn't until nearly 40 years later, he started to speak about Vietnam and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"We're not going to let them come home the way we did."

So Higgins is starting a peer support group for combat veterans returning now. He hopes they will seek help after speaking with Vietnam vets and find comfort in knowing they are not alone.

"Our mission is to go out there and say, this is what is available to you, this what you deserve."said Rita Sandoval with the Amarillo VA Health Care System.

According to Sandoval,  nearly 1900 returning combat veterans in the area are signed up for programs at the VA.  She urges thousands who are not enrolled to join.

"We can address those issues now, I know I Keep saying its their quality of life, but that's what it's all about." said Sandoval.

If you are a returning combat veteran and would like to join Higgins' support group, it takes place every 2nd and 4th Wednesday at Amarillo College's Union Board in room 106, it starts at 6 p.m.

If you are interested in checking out the services offered at the VA,  click here.