Regardless of era or branch of service, the men and women of the U.S. military have shouldered the responsibility of keeping the country safe. But that can come at a price. Some bear permanent scars — either physical, mental or emotional — for the rest of their lives.
It’s something Carlos Poysky knows firsthand. The former Army Ranger understands the impact combat can have on soldiers.
It is at the forefront of his mind every day, but none more so than Veterans Day. The occasion, which will be marked Saturday is a time he often reflects on his service as well as that of his fellow soldiers. One place he does that is with his children at their school, Oglethorpe Point Elementary.
“I have attended the Veterans Day musical function at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School for four years now, and love seeing that our children are being taught at a very early age to show their love and respect to our veterans, our flag and our country,” he said.
“I love hearing the roar of applause as a WWII, Korea, or Vietnam vet walks across the sea of children with their white shirts and red, white, and blue bandanas.”
It means so much to Poysky that he saves the moments he receives each year from the students there.
“It means a lot to me to see I still have all of the hand drawn cards given to me by at the Veterans Day OPES functions,” he said.
Of course, Poysky has veterans on his mind daily, not just Nov. 11. A few years back he founded Wind Sports for Wounded Warriors (WS4WW) which provides four day retreats for wounded soldiers. Based out of St. Simons Island, the program funds excursions where veterans learn to kiteboard, sail and windsurf.
“With the help of local businesses; we provide them with lodging, meals, and even their own equipment that they can keep,” he said. “We hold an annual retreat in St. Simons Island but also run retreats in various locations from Charleston to Key West.”
Now serving as the chairman of the organization with Patrick Fetter taking the reigns as executive director, Poysky is always thrilled to see how it helps veterans reconnect to civilians and become less isolated.
“What I truly love to see is when the veterans bond with our volunteer instructors. Veterans tend to only want to be around other veterans. I find this to be to their detriment since it isolates them from their own communities,” he said. “Less than 8 percent of Americans are veterans, and their ages vary from 18-over 111 so having an exclusive attitude about only befriending veterans is a path to reclusion.”
Instead the program makes relying on civilians critical to learning their sports.
“Ultimately, they find a common ground with the instructors. Instead of seeing ‘non-vets’ they see ‘fellow Americans’ — thereby widening their social network and support,” he said.
“It is crucial for veterans to know they can trust civilians as well as other veterans in their lives. We achieve this goal while introducing them to amazing outdoor activities that value a healthy and active lifestyle.”
Like Poysky, David Sharpe knows how serious post-military isolation can be, he served in the Air Force and found himself severely depressed after he returned from combat. Sharpe contemplated suicide until his rescue dog, Cheyenne, pulled him out of his despair. That led him to start Companions for Heroes, a nonprofit that pairs shelter dogs with veterans who have suffered trauma.