Steve Schiffman is slowly seeing the fruit of his labors as he seeks monetary and community support for his veterans support group.
Operation Not Forgotten seeks to help wartime veterans deal with the mental aspects of readjusting to civilian life and their families deal with what the veterans are going through.
It recently was the subject of a Hiram restaurant’s fundraiser and saw its 12th member join its weekly Vet Life peer group meetings in Dallas.
The effort also is making inroads on taking the veterans support group to other counties, and has a commitment from one volunteer to work to offer its services to veterans in countries like England and Australia, said Schiffman, the group’s organizer.
Dallas resident John Gorman, a railroad engineer and Marine veteran of Operation Desert Storm, said participation in a Vet Life group helps veterans “open up” about the emotional trauma of dealing with war because other members typically have similar experiences.
“When you share it with other vets, you’ve got that camaraderie,” Gorman said.
Operation Not Forgotten is designed to fill in the gaps in mental health services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs and about 60,000 other veterans volunteer groups, Schiffman said.
The nonprofit offers a free 12-step program to help veterans deal with mental health issues which can lead to addiction or suicide, Schiffman said.
It also recently began offering a free Quality of Life assessment used to create a personalized profile that measures how the veteran’s emotional, physical and stress levels contribute to overall health, Schiffman said. A volunteer life coach then can use the assessment to help the veteran improve his or her quality of life, he said.
Schiffman has operated the Douglas County-based Life Renewed nonprofit since 2004 and organized Operation Not Forgotten as one of its programs. He said his research has found eight of every 10 war zone veterans are getting no mental health treatment.
“Most veterans (with PTSD) are either in denial or don’t want to know what’s going on,” said Schiffman, an Air Force veteran and former advertising consultant.
He said he and volunteers recently sought to appeal to veterans to begin Vet Life groups in other counties, including Cherokee where the nonprofit is working with Woodstock First Baptist Church to host groups which include families of veterans.
Another volunteer, David Moore, is working to contact American embassies in the United Kingdom and Australia to help organize similar groups to help veterans in those countries, Schiffman said.
Gorman volunteers to help do life coaching for groups of four to eight veteran participants who are “trying to figure it out,” he said.
Life coaching typically involves motivating or creating confidence in a person as opposed to counseling or therapy which often focus on finding emotional resolutions to past problems, according to the publication Counseling Today.
He said the Vet Life group is worth his time because of the help he is giving his fellow veterans. Volunteering with the group also helped him deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered after his time in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991, he said.
“If I can help four veterans, it’ll be worth it,” Gorman said.
Schiffman typically speaks to groups as varied as the American Legion and church congregations. Paulding Legion members recently invited him to speak during a regional convention, and he spoke to members of Bethel United Methodist Church in Hiram during a recent Sunday service.
A business that has helped the group financially is Happy Hawg Bar-B-Q in Hiram. The Paulding-based, independently-owned restaurant has donated part of proceeds from three different days of operation to the group.
Owner Charles Lamb displays a sign in Happy Hawg which states the group’s purpose: “Giving veterans and their families a better quality of life.”
“I think the saying really gives a summary of what they do,” Lamb said.
Lamb’s restaurant at the busy intersection of Ga. Hwy. 92 and U.S. Hwy. 278 tries to help raise funds or support a number of Paulding charitable groups.
The owner is the son and brother of wartime veterans, and said he supports Schiffman’s group because it offers services badly needed by vets and their families.
“It’s something they can’t get from other groups,” he said.