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Veterans cope with seclusion during pandemic

Posted at 3:19 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 17:23:09-04

(FOX 17) — Nick Kroeze of Grand Rapids served in the Marine Corp Reserves from 2005 until 2008 and like many of our nation's heroes, he has seen a lot while serving.

"Iraq was definitely very intense," Kroeze said, "we were very engaged and focused, doing a lot of patrols through the city and always on alert for anything."

In February of 2007, while serving in Iraq, Kroeze's humvee struck an IED. He was hospitalized and transported back to the states and still suffers from PTSD over 13 years later.

"I'm definitely growing a lot and have learned a lot," he added, "there were a number of years where I used alcohol and wasn't dealing with my problems in a healthy way."

Now, during this pandemic, many veterans are in a tough place due to the seclusion.

"It can definitely raise the anxiety a lot. Just being on our own and not having a clear routine and people supporting us, it can increase the symptoms of anxiety and depression and make it harder."

Doctor William Bloem is the Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health at the Battle Creek VA and has been trying to help veterans cope during this tough time.

"We're trying to be proactive," Bloem said, "and reach all veterans that have mental health or other kinds of concerns and just be there for them."

Bloem says they're still seeing some patients in person but have switched over to virtual meetings for most of their sessions.

"We really enhanced our programming for our mental health programs to be able to reach them," he added.

And both Kroeze and Bloem want veterans to understand that they are not alone and there is help available.

"I still get a lot of help through the VA," Kroeze said, "that's been a big encouragement, I definitely recommend people look through that."

"We want to be there for you," Bloem added, "we will get through this together and we will help you."

The Battle Creek VA is offering a virtual university during the crisis to help with a number of different issues during the pandemic.