Bay County Vets Center provides more than counseling

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WJHG) - Matt Standish calls himself the face of the Bay County Veterans Center.

"I am the luckiest guy in the V.A. I have more fun than any person should be allowed to have," he said.

The Bay County Vet Center is one of 300 in the country including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Standish points out that a Vet Center is a very special office of the V.A.

"What everybody knows about with the V.A.," said Standish, "they know about the cemetery services, the health administration, and benefits administration. What they don't know is another service called R.C.S. That stands for Readjustment Counseling Services. That's Vets Centers."

Any military member who has served in a combat zone, especially on the battlefield, knows it can sometimes be tough to readjust to civilian life. It can also be tough on those closest to them.

"PTSD just tears apart families," explained Standish. "Because of the effects of PTSD on the family, every vet center has at least one licensed marriage and family therapist on their staff."

Vet centers now have an added benefit.

"We provide our counseling services to any veteran, National Guard troops, reservists, and for almost five years now, we've been allowed to see active duty personnel as well, including anybody that the veteran or troop identifies as a family member," said Standish.

And it's all confidential.

"There's always been a stigma attached to getting counseling in the military and whether it's valid or not, you have all these thousands of troops and veterans out there who have seen some really horrible things but because of the stigma, they won't talk to anybody. If they go to a vet center for counseling nobody will ever know that they were there, not even the V.A. Our veterans don't have to be in the V.A. system at all to come see us," Standish said.

While they offer counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and victims of military sexual trauma, there are other therapies that have the clients strumming away their stress.

"We try to get creative sometimes," explained Standish. "Like our guitar group. One of the clients that was in the guitar group was a Vietnam veteran. He taught himself how to play guitar while he was in Vietnam. He brought a guitar home with him, never picked it up again until he took the class here and started with the group."

The Vet Center offers individual and group counseling. No veteran is turned away.

"Our priority is our clients, our troops, our veterans, mostly our brothers and sisters because at this Vet Center we are 100 percent veterans ourselves," said Standish.

But they could use your help.

"We have one really, really big problem: Nobody knows about us. See we don't get to advertise. It's all word of mouth," Standish explained.

The office is located in Lynn Haven behind Haney Techincal Center at 3109 Minnesota Ave. Suite 101.

For more information, you can call the center at 850-522-6102.