MANSFIELD—On November 4 North Central State College in Mansfield held a press conference in its Kee Hall building for the Welcome Johnny and Jane Home: A Listening Initiative program. The program included speakers from the school along with veterans, and a speech by Dr. Paula Caplan who is the founder of the Initiative program. Adam Boyce of the Richland County Veterans Service Commission was the first veteran to speak to the crowd. Boyce served 6 years in the US Army, 4 years with the 706th Transportation Company and two years with the 1486th Transportation Company. He was there to talk about his experiences after coming back from Iraq. In 2003 Boyce went to Fort Campbell for training and then left for Iraq. His job once arriving was to transport fuel from base to base. During that time Boyce said they got shot at almost every day. On November 4 of that year their truck was hit by the enemy. It disabled the truck and knocked out everyone. At the time Boyce seemed fine but upon returning home he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This stemmed from Boyce having a hard time sleeping and avoiding large crowds. It took him a year to find a job doing construction. After that he became a stay at home dad for nine months before he joined the Richland County Veterans commission. He now helps people in similar situations.
The next speaker was Jason Dominguez from the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. Dominguez is the Assistant Director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services and Chief of Staff there since 2011. In 2005 Dominguez went to Iraq with Lima Company. During that time there he led 12 combat operations and 73 combat and security patrols. Dominguez talked about his experience there. During his time in Iraq 23 soldiers were lost in their company. Dominguez said that he hopes that the Welcome Johnny and Jane home program will help civilians connect and understand veterans. The final speaker of the day was the founder of the program Dr. Paula Caplan. Caplan is an award winning author and psychologist. She is the author of eleven books and over one hundred essays as well as the writer of several plays. She is currently an Associate at Harvard University’s DuBois Institute. Caplan talked about what got her interested in veteran’s services. She stated that her father was one of the reasons. He partook in World War 2 and she said that every year in December he would tell stories about the Battle of the Bulge. She listened to these stories every year but never really connected with them until one day her friend videotaped the stories. She went home and watched them and got to a part where her father was talking about being out there alone. Caplan started crying as she heard this because she couldn’t think of her father in that vulnerable situation. That is when she understood and sympathized with what he had been through.
The second reason why she got involved in veterans services was because she served on two committees who were writing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. During this she noticed that these diagnoses weren’t scientific. She began to see that psychiatric labeling was destroying lives. She especially noticed it in soldiers returning home who were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Caplan said that there are many negatives to being labeled with the disorder such as loss in confidence, loss of innocence, guilt, shame, moral anguish, loss of health insurance, and higher premiums. She said they could even lose custody of a child or be discharged from the forces. Caplan sought out to find an alternative approach to helping these soldiers. That’s when she created the Welcome Johnny and Jane Home: A Listening Initiative.
This project sees a non veteran sit down with a veteran of war from any era. The non veterans job is just sit there and listen. The listener starts off with an initial sentence to begin the session. After that they listen to their stories of war and do not give their own opinions. When it comes to a part in the story where the veteran talks about something that they had been through that has caused mental trauma the listener tells them that if they had been through that they would be having nightmares too and it is a natural human reaction. The program helps the veterans by giving them a private non judging place to talk. This allows them to get out what they need to while having a caring individual listen and understand.
Training for program participants is being held at North Central State College this week as they are holding it in partnership with Ohio State University of Mansfield and Ashland University.