Kelly Ogle, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The sacrifice the nation's veterans and their families make is truly immeasurable. In one week 3,200 hundred soldiers from the 45thInfantry Combat Brigade will ship out for a tour in Afghanistan, but it's when they come back home when the real battle could begin for some of them.
Captain John Johnson said he always knew he wanted to serve his country. He volunteered for the Army right out of high school, eventually becoming a member of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division.
"Everybody had their chest out. Everybody was proud to wear the 82nd Airborne patch," Johnson said.
His unit eventually served in Iraq. Their primary mission was to keep the enemy out of Samarra.
"Normally day-to-day, it was very common for us to get hit by an IED or get shot at," Johnson said. "You're just walking in a normal city and the next thing you know things are snapping, things are zinging next to you, someone throws a grenade, a bomb goes off then you see people scattering and it gets chaotic."
Captain Johnson's unit defeated the enemy many times, but the reality of war also meant losing friends.
"I think that was the hardest thing to do was to come back and not have everybody with you," Johnson said.
Like most soldiers who return home, Johnson was welcomed with open arms, but he said it's hard for people to truly comprehend life on the battlefield.
"They know you've been shot at. They know you've seen bombs. They know you've seen death. You know people who've been shot or killed, but it's really hard to get it just right," Johnson said.
For the soldiers, the real battle often starts away from the war zone.
"At home you're juggling kids, spouse, work, other family, a lot of different competing priorities and often that's a real challenge," said Dr. Steve Scruggs.
Dr. Scruggs treats veterans with a wide range of mental issues, and a lot of them need it.
"Veterans often times suffer in silence. They're tough, strong, can-do people who say, 'I can handle it.' But really it wears on them and their family members," Scruggs said.
And that's where Pros 4 Vets comes in and why Toby Keith's a co-founder.
"You can't even make your mind connect with what they go through mentally, to be able to turn on and off in a heartbeat every single day that you are over there," Keith said. "It's up to us as the public to create these organizations that care for and tend to the need when they come home."
"Sometimes soldiers may need a little more comfort not only when they get back but further on down the road when things really start to bother them," Johnson said.
Pros 4 Vets not only helps with mental health, but legal issues as well.
Hundreds of attorneys from all over our state are giving veterans free legal advice or counsel through the Bar Association's program called Oklahoma Lawyers for America's Heroes.
"We can't go fight over there but we can fight over here, and we're just here for them. And I don't know if they knew that before. My mission is that they will know it now," said Deborah Reheard Oklahoma Bar Association president.