NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Yellow Ribbon events gives Soldiers and their families the opportunity to be introduced to several resources that can assist them with whatever they need; whether it's job opportunities to free counseling.
Give an Hour (GAH) is one of those organizations that are giving back to the military community. Its mission is to develop national networks of volunteers who are capable of responding to both acute and chronic conditions. Its target population is Soldiers and families who are affected by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The objective is to get mental health professionals nationwide to donate an hour of their time each week to provider free mental health services to military personnel and their families.
Nancy St. Claire, chief operating officer for the Give an Hour organization, was one of the vendors present at the Yellow Ribbon event speaking to Soldiers and their family members about her organization. In 2008, St. Claire was hired as a civilian cultural advisor to the U.S. Army and deployed for seven months to Kirkuk, Iraq. Prior to that she went through training at the National Training Center, in Fort Irwin, Ca., so she has an understanding of what Soldiers go through preparing for and being deployed.
"Part of what we do is help educate civilian counselors about how to best work with the military and their loved ones so they can understand that culture," said St. Claire. "When you get into a counseling session it helps to know something about that background."
GAH was started in 2005 by Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, a licensed psychologist and a daughter of a World War II veteran. Their target population is post 9/11 service members from all branches. They will even see retired service member and Soldiers who have been discharged honorably or less then honorably qualify to receive care from the GAH. Even service members who didn't deploy during this timeframe can also contact GAH for service. If you served your country you are eligible for this service.
"You don't have to deploy to be affected by mental health issues, with the high suicide rate about 44 percent of the service members who commit suicide did not deploy," said St. Claire. "The other people that we serve are the loved ones of the people who have served post 9/11."
St. Claire believes the reason GAH is so popular is that it's easy to utilize and there is no records that are kept. If a Soldier or family member would like for his or her information to be released it can be requested. Those who qualify can go to the GAH website at www.giveanhour.org and type in their zip code in the search engine or do a specialized search to find the closest GAH provider near them.