MARION, IL (KFVS) - Many soldiers who return home from serving overseas will have mental health issues and have to travel far from their families for help. But Marion VA Medical Center just opened a new facility to help soldiers get the mental care they need.
It's an inpatient mental health facility designed specifically for veterans. The goal is the help them overcome a number of issues unique to veterans. One of those is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which for many haunts them long after they have left they have battle field.
Paul Ricketts breaks in a game of pool with friend Jeremy Sparks. They are years apart in age, but have a friendship forged out of the pains war.
"There's a big age difference between me and the combat soldiers," Ricketts said. "But we all did the same thing and we all did it well."
Ricketts is one of the first patients at in the new Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program at the Marion VA.
On the bed in his room is a flag honoring those who fought in Vietnam. Ricketts says it's provides him a sense of place and a reminder of what they faced as teenage boys.
"We all became something none of us wanted the title, we were killers," Ricketts said in tears. "It's some of the things I've had to live with four the last 44 years."
Recently Rickets started to share those emotions with those like veteran Jeremy Sparks. Sparks severed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But Sparks when he finally returned home he fell into a depression.
"I just had this feeling that everybody around knew the bad things that happened and that they were judging me and holding me accountable for it," Sparks said. "So I isolated myself in my room."
Sparks says his family encouraged him to seek treatment for his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"I didn't want people to think I was weak minded or that I was crazy," Sparks said.
Sparks and Ricketts are two of 14 veterans who live in the new facility and get treatment daily. Both say as each week goes by, they're learning to forgive what happened on the battlefield.
"I am doing a lot better now, about myself, about my purpose in life and also about my future," Sparks said.
Sparks and Ricketts say learning they were accepted into the program was one of the best days of their lives. The program is voluntary. Still both soldiers say they plan to stay for as long as it takes.
Contact the Marion V. A. to learn more about the Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program.