CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION
Aproposed federal measure named for a fallen wounded warrior intends to connect more Virginia veterans with other veterans living with PTSD and TBIs.
The PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program Act would create a federal grant for state and local entities, non-profits serving veterans and veteran service organizations nationwide to implement the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program—in place in New York since 2012.
NY Republican U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota, a Navy Veteran, is chief sponsor of the program expansion with backing from U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th.
Iraq War hero PFC Joseph P. Dwyer, of Mount Sinai, N.Y., was a U.S. Army medic who returned home with serious psychological and emotional wounds from combat, according to a release from the congresswoman’s office.
Dwyer’s long battle with PTSD resulted in his untimely passing in 2008 at the age of 31. A NBC News story in 2008 featured his tragic death, “GI in famous photo defeated by his ‘demons.’”
“Iraq War veteran Joseph Dwyer was a symbol of the United States’ good intentions thanks to a photograph taken in the early days of the war. But his story swiftly soured when he returned home,” according to nbcnews.com.
The famous photo by Army Times photographer Warren Zinn showed Dwyer carrying a young, injured Iraqi boy during a 2003 battle. The immortal image was made into a statue unveiled in 2021 in Dwyer’s native New York.
In his name, New York more than a decade ago created the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program, which helps veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury by connecting them with veterans experiencing similar issues.
Peer support has a demonstrated record of success, providing peer-to-peer counselling for thousands of veterans across New York State, according to the congresswoman’s release.
The federal measure would expand the program to other states.
“The greatest nation in the world owes its greatest heroes adequate mental health care. To meet this solemn obligation, Congress must provide more funding and more programs to support our heroes when they come home,” said LaLota in a statement in April announcing the act to expand the program. “As a Navy veteran, I know firsthand the very real mental health challenges many service members face and Congress must ensure our heroes know that their sacrifice is recognized and appreciated.”
Spanberger added she has spoken directly with many Virginia veterans working to overcome the mental wounds of war.
“Often, they tell me about how they find immense strength in sharing their stories, their experiences, and their triumphs with their fellow Veterans,” she said. “That’s why I’m proud to help introduce this legislation to make sure these veterans are connected with even more of the resources they deserve.”
Such outreach is critical in building pathways to hope, preventing suicide and achieving personal health and wellness for veterans, the congresswoman said.
If a Virginian or someone they know is in crisis, they can call or text 9-8-8 or chat online at 988lifeline.com. Veterans can reach the Veterans Crisis Line directly by dialing 9-8-8 and pressing “1.”