By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC
Karl Monger's grandfather acquired post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while serving in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and became an alcoholic to self-medicate those deep inner wounds. Karl's grandfather, due in part to those wounds, would mistreat Karl's father, which then contributed to his father mistreating Karl. When Karl was 4 in 1965, his father deserted his family.
Now 54-year-old Karl Monger, of Dallas, Texas, is a retired U.S. Army Major and founder/executive director of GallantFew, a nonprofit organization trying to “prevent veteran isolation by connecting new veterans with hometown veteran mentors.” Perhaps you could say Monger wants, in part, to reverse the generational cycle often accompanying returning veterans, similar to what he experienced in his own family.
In a telephone interview, Monger said, “We didn't start (GallantFew) with the intention of helping disabled veterans. It was started in response to the suicide problem. In the mid-2000s, about when I started the first Army Ranger networking group on Linkedin.com, I heard the VA Secretary say 18 veterans commit suicide every day. Now that number is 22.”
He initially began GallantFew in 2010 for Rangers only, and based the model on his personal experience as a boy mentored through the Big Brother program. In college, Monger was a big brother to an at-risk youth, and, after the military, he ran a Big Brother agency in Kansas.
“Doing that convinced me one-on-one mentoring was life-changing,” he said. “And it was natural to connect people that had things in common.”
GallantFew has expanded to include any serviceman or -woman, and now has 7,000 involved. He said common problems among members include PTSD, traumatic brain injury, alcohol/drug abuse, physical disability, family problems, isolation, and suicidal thoughts.
He illustrated how GallantFew works: “There's a veteran now in Houston going through a divorce who has a newborn son in ICU. He had a number of physical injuries (including back and brain), but hasn't been approved for a disability rating. He had six Ranger combat deployments. He quit a decent paying job to be near his son. Medical expenses and stress were tearing him up. He reached out to one of our online groups. We helped with financial assistance and connected him with a Ranger vet (mentor) that owned a business in Houston, who hired him. The job has good income potential and the flexibility he needs to visit his son.”
For more, see GallantFew.org.
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