Randall “Gunny” Reyes noticed a young man following his Mobile Vet Center.
This 40-foot van driven by George Rodriguez was en route to the Manteca Jimmie Connors Veteran of Foreign War Post 6311 on Friday. When it finally came to a halt, Reyes, who is a Veteran Outreach Program Specialist from Modesto, was approached by the stranger.
“He was a veteran (of the war in Afghanistan) and wanted to see what services we had to offer,” Reyes said, noting that the young man was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
The mobile unit belongs to the Vet Center Program, which is part of the US Department of Veteran Affair.
This program was established in 1991 in response to the Persian Gulf War, with Congress extending the eligibility to veterans serving in various eras of armed hostilities.
Reyes and Monica Shoneff, who is also a Readjustment Counseling Assistant at the Modesto Vet Center, were able to extend their service to at least 20 veterans early on. Included were those who saw action in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan.
Shoneff and Reyes are able to relate with many of the veterans based on their own military experiences.
She spent six years in the Army and was stationed 15 months in Bagdad. “I’ve met with Vietnam War veteran groups and here I am, a modern era female – yet we still can connect,” she said.
Reyes spent 13 years in Marines and saw action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Djibouti during that span. “Veteran can relate to us because we’ve been there,’ he added.
Reyes, who is from Modesto, learned of the Vet Center’s Readjustment Counseling Service from his father, who was a veteran of the Vietnam War.
Shoneff is from Stockton, where she earned a degree in Sociology at the University of the Pacific. She worked for various non-profit groups before finally getting her opportunity with the Vet Center program, which has a goal of providing a full range of readjustment counseling to veterans.
“I have a deep passion to help those who kept me safe and alive,” said Shoneff of her work with veterans.
Besides PTSD – defined as the normal set of reactions to the trauma of war but could be experienced by almost anyone (delayed stress reaction may surface years later among the elder veterans) – the Mobile Vet Center also offers military sexual trauma and harassment counseling as well as bereavement counseling.
Reyes noted that military sexual trauma and harassment is tough issue for veterans of both sexes and in all eras.
He and Shoneff keep all counseling sessions confidential and private.
Bereavement counseling is offered to parents, siblings, spouses, and children but those with family members in the military reserves and the National Guards who die while on duty are also eligible.
There are 300 Vet Center across the nation.
“We’re not here just for the one-on-one (counseling) but we also handle the here and now issues along with recreation – we want them to be out and socializing again,” Reyes said.
The Mobile Vet Center was at the local VFW along with the San Joaquin County Veterans Service Office.
Doug Hebbard from Project HERO in Sacramento and Duke Cooper from Veterans First in Riverbank were also on hand.
“We’re continuing our work here to trying to meet the needs of our veterans,” said VFW post commander and former Mayor Carlon Perry, who added that five new members, including two lifetime, came about from the event.
The Mobile Vet Center will be back at VFW Post 6311 on Friday, Aug. 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
For more information on the Vet Center, call 209.569.0713 or log on to www.vetcenter.va.gov.