Veterans return home with lasting memories from service, but Point Man International Ministries provides a place to share with others.
There are 55 veteran suicide attempts per month, with 22 that are successful, according to Outpost Leader, California Coordinator and Vietnam veteran Allan Kumlin, who cites statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. People commit suicide because of feeling hopeless, Kumlin said.
"They don't need to if they get together with a group of veterans that care about them," he said.
Veteran Steve Schiller served 18 months in Vietnam in the United States Army; he never saw combat, but his post-traumatic stress disorder comes from guilt of knowing those who did, he said.
"Am I still back in Vietnam and just forgot to come home?" Schiller said. "There are a number of us that, whether we realize it or not, we're still there — we never came home."
Schiller said the group was the best thing that could've happened for him, as he initially tried to keep the memories buried inside so they wouldn't haunt him. But the more he tried making it impossible to relive, the memories became more pronounced, he said.
The non-profit nondenominational Christian organization emphasizes "veterans helping veterans," but being a Christian is not a requirement, according to Kumlin.
"When veterans came back (they) expected us to be the same and none of us came back the same," Kumlin said. A member since 1997, Kumlin served in the U.S. Navy and had two deployments in Vietnam in 1965 and 1967, he said.
The group helped Kumlin identify, deal and live with PTSD, which he didn't know he had, Kumlin said.
PTSD becomes chronic after a year because the brain's chemistry changes and although it's treatable, there's no cure, Kumlin said. The public wrongly links the disorder to insanity, according to Kumlin, who said it's a reaction that occurs naturally in the body, brain and memory in response to an unusual experience that's emotionally traumatic.
The group provides PTSD help that the VA medical, psychological and encounter groups lack, according to Korean War veteran Thomas Burchfield, who was drafted in 1953 and served 16 months in Korea in the U.S. Army.
"What's missing (from the VA) is a spiritual base," said Burchfield. "Most men I meet that have their life under control have done it with a spiritual element involved."
The unique rapport with fellow military veterans personally helps Burchfield, because he doesn't have to explain to family or loved ones that can't understand an experience they haven't been through, he said.
Veteran Robert Turner, 33, served in the Marine Corps for 13 years, and did two tours both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In denial after first leaving the service, Turner, said he realized he had PTSD when in a rage he used a 9-iron golf club to destroy a printer.
According to Turner, he was hesitant to receive veteran benefits because he has all limbs intact while many others don't.
"I realized the bigger problems are the ones you can't see," he said.
Schiller said he first got help by venting during meetings and now sees those meetings as a sounding board to help new veterans get through it.
"It's just as much a cure, if you will, to help another get through it than yourself — you also help yourself that way," Schiller said.
"Point Man got me to a secure level," Turner said, "to know there's a group that's always there for me no matter if it's PTSD related or, 'How was the football game?' "
Confidential help is available through the Veteran's Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.
The group also offers resources for things such as veteran benefits, car repair, budget and education; they welcome anyone who wants to offer services.
The group is also open to policemen and firemen and meets at 7 p.m. every Tuesday at Hesperia Community Church, 16775 Olive St. For more information, go to www.PMIM.Org or contact Kumlin at 760-244-4168.