Veterans support group "At Ease" helping dozens in Berrien County


Veterans in Berrien County have a new place to go if they are struggling and need help or if they just want to talk with people who understand what they're going through.

It's a support group for veterans only and it's called At Ease.

It's free and they meet once a week at the Trinity Lutheran Center in St. Joseph.

People can remain anonymous if they want to but the whole idea is to just give veterans in the area a place to go where they feel comfortable.

Every week there are at least two volunteers who are veterans.

They're there to help lead the discussions and answer questions.

Some weeks there have been as many as ten people.

On Thursday Gust Anton was the only person to show up.

He's a Korean War veteran and he says he suffers from PTSD.

He adds, "From the time I returned home in 1954 I couldn't hold a job down. It was hit and miss. I didn't find out I had PTSD until the year 2000."

This was his second time going to At Ease.

He finds it's helpful to tell other veterans his stories and hear theirs.

Charles Poll is a veteran and he's one of the volunteers.

He says, "We may talk about some of our experiences in the service or just talk about what we do or our vocations now. Being retired or what our hobbies are."

Adjusting to civilian life and overcoming bad memories from their service are other topics that may come up at the meetings.

Poll is an Air Force veteran.

He says being a part of the support group is therapeutic for him too.

Poll says, "I am a Vietnam era veteran. I did not go over to Vietnam but the closest I got was the Philippine islands and saw the planes coming in and out that were headed toward Vietnam. For the longest time I did not tell people I was a Vietnam era veteran."

But now he says he's proud to tell people.

Veterans who attend are also told about local resources like the Berrien County Veterans Administration and the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Veterans Clinic.

At Ease meets every Thursday evening from 6:30 to 8.

Trinity Lutheran Center provides the space for the group to meet but organizers want people to know that every veteran and denomination are welcome.

The hope is to eventually hold similar meetings in places like Coloma, Benton Harbor and Stevensville.