Vet Centers celebrates 40th anniversary

The Vet Center of Bay County is celebrating its 40th anniversary with an open house and sharing the importance of mental health for veterans. (WJHG/WECP)

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Vet Center is celebrating 40 years of serving those who have served our country.

Matt Standish, Veterans Outreach Programs Specialist at the Bay County Vet Center, said, "The Vet Center program was created to provide a place for veterans, National Guard troops, reservists, and now even active duty members to come in for counseling with somebody who's probably been there themselves."

Army veteran and vet center client Virginie Delaforterie is one of those people.

"I mean, who I was before 2005, before the Vet Center and who I am now is so different, 180 degrees," said Delaforterie.

The staff of counselors consists of Air Force, Marines, and Army veterans who offer things like one-on-one services, group therapy, and art and guitar therapy classes.

Alex Burnhisel, an art teacher at the center, said, "You know, when I got out of the service I had a hard time readjusting and paint was what I knew. It was really a big part of my transition, and it was a constant, and I think that people who suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and depression need a constant in their life."

Despite having resources like the Vet Center, many veterans still struggle with an internal battle.

"The problem is... see there's so many thousands of troops and veterans out there who've seen really really horrible things but for whatever reason, they have they won't talk to anybody," said Standish.

Delaforterie said, "I think veterans tend to, I would call it implode, you know, because they don't want to get out there and have to deal with what's triggering them for PTSD."

Which is why on the 40th Anniversary of Readjustment Counseling Services at the Vet Center, their message is one of compassion and support for veterans across America who may still be fighting a different kind of war.

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