By Paul Van Dyke
The following story on the new Amicus Veterans Justice Program Veterans Support group at Lino Lakes recently appeared in the “Lino Ledger,” the correctional facility newspaper. Paul Van Dyke served in the Minnesota National Guard from 2002-2008 as an infantryman. He deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 to Al Anbar Province, where he received the Purple Heart medal and the Combat Infantryman’s badge. He came home in 2007 after his tour was extended for four months as part of the troop surge. He has been incarcerated since 2010. In 2012 he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and turned to writing as part of his therapy. Paul has since been published in several publications and we appreciate his contribution to the Amicus blog.
There are a lot of feelings associated with being an incarcerated veteran. Sometimes I feel disappointed in myself for letting my country down and not living up to who I knew I could have been. There are times when it feels like all the close bonds I developed with my battle buddies have disintegrated over the years I have been in prison and slowly forgotten. It can feel like my hands are tied when I’m trying to navigate the benefits process while incarcerated and that can get really frustrating.
What I have found is that I am not alone in feeling these things.
Last November veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces incarcerated at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility began meeting on the last Thursday of each month for a support group. Since its founding we have had representatives from the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans and the Veterans Administration come in and speak about topics important to release such as housing, employment, medical claims, education, health care and legal assistance.
The group is facilitated by Navy veteran of Desert Storm Chris Doege and Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom Chris Lowe. Both are staff from Amicus who will do everything within their power to get a veteran the help he needs.
The meetings are more than just benefit briefings. We also share stories from our time in the service (completely optional), to get to know other veterans from around the facility, and we’re even in the process of starting a book club. The group is new and our identity is still forming, but the important part is that the group will become what we want it to be.
All veterans are welcome to attend, whatever your rank, branch of service, Military Occupation Status, or discharge status. If you are a veteran who is interested in attending, you can send a kite to Sergeant Hennesey to be added to the movement list. We meet in the Education Building from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the last Thursday of every month. Attendance is never required, so feel free to check it out. Hope to see you there.