JAMESTOWN - In an effort to reach out and help veterans who may be suffering, the North Dakota American Legion has began a campaign called "Courage Carries On."
The campaign was kicked off Feb. 7 during the organization's winter conference held in Jamestown.
The campaign hinges on a service member's courage to serve and to get help: "You had the courage to serve your country. Now have the courage to help yourself."
It's a three-phase educational campaign that reaches out to veterans of any war. The campaign targets those who may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, whether from war, sexual trauma or other traumatic experiences. It also aims to prevent suicide by offering avenues for help.
The American Legion's Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Committee partnered with Results Unlimited, a Minot-based marketing and advertising agency, to create the campaign.
"Courage Carries On" presents a different message, not dwelling on the often-used PTSD label, but focusing on finding relief from its troubling symptoms. The campaign's messages aren't given by actors, but by real North Dakota veterans who have battled PTSD and foundhelp.
"As the state's largest war-time veterans' organization, the American Legion understands veterans' experiences. We want to overcome the stigma that correlates weakness with asking for help. Making that call can be one of the hardest things a veteran ever does. It takes courage, but it's worth it. North Dakota American Legion veterans want all veterans to know this," said Jim Deremo, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Committee chairman.
Others on the committee include Dan Stenvold, one of the veterans featured in the campaign; Jerry Samuelson, incoming department commander; Tom Sumers, veterans coordinator with the Department of Veterans Affairs and a member of the N.D. Army National Guard; Cathy Keogh, a nurse and retired soldier; Dean Johnson, a county veteran service officer; and Amy Wieser Willson, deputy public information officer for the North Dakota National Guard.
The three-phase campaign is meant to enhance and supplement work being done by Veterans Affairs and other veterans' agencies in the state.
In the first phase of the "Courage Carries On" campaign, the American Legion will distribute posters and brochures created by Results Unlimited to all local Legion posts through North Dakota. The posters and brochures highlight PTSD symptoms and detail who to contact for professional assistance or more information. Local posts will distribute the posters and brochures throughout their communities to promote the importance of the message.
The N.D. American Legion also has created a Facebook page and Web site specifically related to the "Courage Carries On" theme of the program.
The Facebook site will give North Dakota veterans the opportunity to connect with one another, share experiences and make friendships while getting updates on information relevant to veterans and PTSD. The Web site (www.couragecarrieson.org) will provide resources for veterans. Those interested also will be able to sign up for relevant updates through the Twitter site ( twitter.com/CourageCO) and receive those messages by computer or mobile phone.
The second and third phase of the campaign will begin later.