Hawaii reservists are not alone when they come home from battle - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii reservists are not alone when they come home from battle

Sergeant Noelani DE Silva Sergeant Noelani DE Silva
Capt. QueSchae Blue-Clark Capt. QueSchae Blue-Clark
Staff Sgt. Julius Jaralba Staff Sgt. Julius Jaralba
Marcy Houston Marcy Houston

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Flashbacks, insomnia, hallucinations - all very real problems for some of Hawaii's returning servicemembers.

"It was pretty rough. I did have nightmares. The stress level was pretty high for me, just because of what I experienced there."

Sergeant Noelani DE Silva saw some pretty horrific things during her 10 month tour in Iraq. "I had no choice but to be strong, "she says. DE Silva's job was to meet with and collect personal information from injured soldiers - many who's limbs had been blown off from roadside bombs.

When she returned home to Hawaii in 2007, she had a hard time adjusting, although she was never specifically diagnosed with PTSD. Still, at first, she didn't want counseling. "I did actually go and seek help afterwards for relief, ‘cause I couldn't sleep, and it was real difficult."

DE Silva still battles some emotions, especially when thinking about a fellow soldier who she took under her wing in Iraq. She tears up when saying "He's still having problems, and we've been back for what, three years now? So, I still carry that burden because it kind of destroyed his personal life."

The Department of Defense finally decided it needed to specifically address the problems and challenges of reservists. Since 9-11, the military has had to call upon more part-time servicemembers for both Iraq and Afghanistan, and many have gone on multiple tours in the Middle East. When they return from war, their needs are often quite different from those on active duty.

Many return, not to the security and familiarity of a military base, but to their civilian lives where they were often left on their own. So, two summers ago - seven years after the September 11th attacks - the DOD launched the Yellow Ribbon program.

Captain QueSchae Blue-Clark says, "We try to reach out, call, email, we've got websites". Yellow Ribbon provides support for servicemembers and families before, during, and after deployment, covering issues that range from anger management to substance abuse to marriage counseling.

"There's actually a lot of stuff there, if you look for it," says Staff Sgt. Julius Jaralba, an Iraq War veteran and Hawaii Army National Guardsman.

About 350 soldiers and airmen from Hawaii's National Guard are currently deployed in the Middle East. They are required to attend re-integration courses thirty, sixty, and ninety days after returning from war.

"Every single person that goes through there is being seen by both medical and psychological health and behavioral health personnel, so we're getting ‘eyes on' every single soldier that goes through, " says Marcy Houston, Director of Psychological Health at the Hawaii National Guard.

The Guard is left to wonder if former Hawaii reservist Clayborne Conley, who, friends say suffered from PTSD and other mental problems, could have been helped more, if the Yellow Ribbon program was in place when he returned from war in 2006.

Conley is believed to have broken into the Makiki home of Kristine Cass and her 13 year old daughter, Saundra, last Friday. They were found shot to death, and police discovered Conley's body nearby. He had apparently turned the gun on himself. Friends of Kristine Cass say she and Conley had dated for awhile, but she broke off their relationship.

While PTSD may have been one factor, many others could have played a role in the former soldier turning violent. He had a history of mental illness and a criminal record that included charges of assault, terroristic threatening, and violating a restraining order. In 2007, Conley became inactive in the Guard and never returned.

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