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Jessica Lynch signs a book for Heidi Harger

Tribute to Middle-East war veterans brought in Jessica Lynch

Contributed By: The 411 News

Fundraiser for Disabled American Veterans in northwest Indiana

A nineteen-year-old on March 19, 2003, Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch was in her first overseas duty when the U.S. launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. Four days later, she was an injured prisoner of war in an Iraq hospital.

Her appearance was the highlight at Saturday night’s fundraiser for veterans who served in the Iraq, Afghanistan and Gulf wars. Lynch was also signing her book "I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story."

"These are my words," Lynch said. "I tell the story of my capture and rescue in the Iraq War -- not the sensationalized ones of the media's initial reports." Lynch didn't pinpoint which media, saying "the stories were fabricated and bizarre. I don't know where they came from."

On this Veterans Day weekend, the Hard Rock Live arena at Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, a presenting sponsor, was filled to capacity with veterans, their families and support groups for the “Tribute to our Veterans Who Served in the Middle East.”

Sandra Taylor, from Gary, attended because her brother Charles Beavers had served in Vietnam and in Iraq.

Lynch's message to her audience, "I want to talk about resiliency and perseverance. I'm not looking for sympathy for what I went through. Find that perseverance inside of you ... and dig deep. We are stronger than what we give ourselves credit for. And continue to support our men and women who are stationed everywhere. Don't forget the ones that have fallen and didn't come home."

Another message for the veterans and their families came from Will Beiersdorf, executive director of the Road Home Program at Chicago's Rush Hospital.

Since 2015, the Road Home Program has been dedicated to the mental health and wellness of veterans, active duty service members, members of the National Guard and Reserves, and their families at no cost and regardless of discharge status.

The U.S. has decreased its military involvements, but the program has not seen a drop in the number of men and women needing care. Beiersdorf said the program is quite busy serving pre-and-post 9-11 military personnel. "The program sees about 500-700 veterans and their families every year. Since we started, we've seen nearly 3,000 to 4,000 veterans."

Road Home treats the mental traumas coming from military service. "There's a whole range of needs. It might be psychological trauma from combat. We see members that have been prisoners in the war. Some are suffering from bouts of depression, anxiety. So we take time to really listen and assess what kind of challenges they have so we can best serve them," Beiersdorf said.

About 20-25 percent of the staff in the Road Home Program are veterans, Beiersdorf said. Some were active duty psychologists in war zones. On staff are licensed clinical social workers who served in the military. "And we have a Gold Star Mother working with us to help connect with families." A Gold Star Mother has lost a son or daughter in combat.

Tribute sponsor Robert Carnagey, State Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Department of Indiana, said the fundraiser proceeds will benefit the DAV Glenn F. Renicker, Chapter #17, Department of Indiana, Hammond; Chapter 102 of Valparaiso, and other service organizations in the northwest Indiana area.

Road Home staff (l-r) Rebecca Risley, Modie Lavin, Ashton Kroner, and Will Beiersdorf. Risley is a 20-year Navy veteran. Lavin is a Gold Star Mother.

Story Posted:11/14/2022

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