Story posted July 16, 2009
Like many veterans who return from war zones, Rob Pfeiffer '67 shouldered the heavy weight of his experiences in battle and says 13 years went by before he could speak of his time in combat.
As Pfeiffer can tell you, bottling up one's feelings often only worsens the post-traumatic stress suffered by many vets. He knows from experience on two fronts.
Working as a mental health counselor for more than thirty years, Pfeiffer helps others deal with their emotional wounds. This spring he began holding weekly counseling sessions for vets in his office in Camden, Maine, in a program called Veterans Helping Veterans.
Pfeiffer's professional training paired with his life experience make him especially well-suited to help other veterans grappling with the trauma of war.
"I was a Marine lieutenant and captain in the Vietnam era, and managed to survive," Pfeiffer said in an interview with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) that aired July 7, 2009.
"I'm a disabled vet — I got shot. But other than that I came through with an appreciation for what war does to us as veterans, and I think that's the place where we can connect that takes other people longer to do, because we've already got a built-in understanding of what veterans have experienced."
The Veterans Administration says around 40 percent of those returning from war zones in recent years have sought some kind of psychological help to deal with the after-effects of combat. That percentage may be even higher, as there persists among veterans an attitude that seeking such help is akin to admitting weakness.
Pfeiffer says his program has the full support of the National Guard, which views it as a pilot project to be expanded into other states if it proves successful.