The GI Rights Hotline

 

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First time in my life I have decided to actually put a bumper sticker on my car.

I met wonderful, inspiring people yesterday, two for the first time and two I had met once before. It was at a retreat about the GI Rights Hotline (1-877-447-4487) and Quaker House.

The windows at Charlotte Friends Meeting House, where we met for the retreat.
The windows at the Charlotte Friends Meeting House, where we met for the Piedmont Friends Fellowship retreat.

Steve Woolford and Lenore Yarger are two of the people who answer the phone when someone calls the GI Rights Hotline (it is run by a consortium of organizations, but Steve and Lenore are the two associated with Quaker House, and they take a lot of calls). They are there for people – to listen to them and answer their questions about navigating military regulations in tough situations. Sometimes, the caller has gone AWOL or UA (absent without leave or unauthorized absence) and wants guidance on returning and dealing with the consequences. Sometimes, the caller is facing a discharge that he or she feels should be at a different level than they are being told. Sometimes, the caller is having difficulty accessing medical or mental health services. And sometimes, a soldier realizes that he or she cannot be the instrument of any more death. Whatever the reason, the caller always needs someone to hear him or her.

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That is Steve, on the left. Hopefully, the picture captures some of his ability to connect to others. (When I asked to take this picture, Steve was chatting with David, who also attended the presentation). Lenore was not able to be there yesterday. I would love to meet her someday, too.

Calls to the Hotline come in from all over the world. However, in Fayetteville, hometown of Fort Bragg and nearby Pope Field, Joanna Nunez is there to talk to people in person. After all, it is not just with figuring out military regulations that people sometimes need assistance. Sometimes, they need help with the consequences of combat. These consequences range from PTSD and moral injury (feelings of guilt and shame related to actions required of soldiers), and sometimes the spillover into private lives, such as domestic violence. She has also counseled people dealing with sexual assault. I wish I had gotten a photo of her before she left. She is amazing.

Joanna does her counseling at and through Quaker House, which brings me to the incredible directors of Quaker House, Lynn and Steve Newsom. They keep all the programs of Quaker House running smoothly and continually reach out to the military community, and Fayetteville itself, intertwined as they are. As you can imagine, Directors Lynn and Steve refer people to Lenore and Steve at the Hotline or to Joanna for counseling. Hotline Lenore and Steve also may refer people in Fayetteville to Joanna for counseling, and Joanna may refer people to the Hotline for help with regulatory issues. And Directors Lynn and Steve are there in the thick of it.

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All these people do this work because they care. They care enough to do this day in and day out.

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