More than 150 veterans, their families and service providers gathered at the Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, for Serving Those Who Served: Wellness Fair for Veterans, Active Duty and Their Families. The evening was filled with meaningful conversation about the importance of wellness and what is being done to eliminate the stigma of mental illness to ensure service members receive the help they need. The event was hosted in partnership by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency.
The building was bustling with activity as participants visited exhibits and resource tables before gathering for the panel discussion. Many visitors to the San Diego Military Family Collaborative (SDMFC) table mentioned wanting resources, either for themselves or to share through their organizations.
Nicole Miller-Coleman from Pugilistic Offensive Warrior (POW) Tactics said, “I’m here to get connected, collaborate, and get information out to the active military and veterans that we see.”
Harry Constance, who works with Emmanuel Faith in Escondido, signed up to receive email updates and news to share with the church’s dozen veterans, plus the active duty military he sponsors. City Councilmember Marty Emerald, who is working with resource organizations to support veterans, also stopped by the SDMFC table.
During the panel discussion that followed, guest speaker John Roberts (Wounded Warrior Project Executive Vice President), alongside industry leaders, shared personal stories of hope and resilience. The panelists also talked about services available to help the military community cope with their invisible wounds of war. The panel was moderated by ABC 10 Reporter Bob Lawrence and included: Barbara Padilla (Courage to Call), Larry Taylor (VA Military Chaplain), Giovanny Penate (OIF/OEF Veteran), Maurice Wilson (National Veterans Transition Services, Inc.), and McCail Smith, Jr (Mental Health Advocacy Council for VA Southern California).
All veterans themselves, the panelists shared their organizations' efforts to support veterans going through recovery, connecting them to resources, and how they are encouraging wellness in the community. Topics included transition to civilian life, volunteering, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and outreach to veterans.
Noted Padilla; “It’s valuable to be a helpful neighbor or co-worker, someone who can listen and not pry, to be supportive and lend a hand when needed. This has been a great event. A lot of good, relevant information was shared.”
Pictured above (from left): Jessica Cross (SDMFC Intern), Rebecca Lucier (SDMFC Intern), and Nina Iwanaga (County of San Diego HHSA and SDMFC Coordinating Council Member) staff the San Diego Military Collaborative Resource Table