Organizations support veterans over game of golf

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BOX ELDER, S.D. -

Community members hit the links to show veterans they're not alone.

The Knights of Columbus joined the Sergeant Colton Levi Derr Foundation to help soldiers struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder during their 4th Annual KOC Golf Tournament at Prairie Ridge Golf Course on Sunday.

Despite the humidity and heat, the community continued to tee up.

"We love to get out in the community, regardless of weather, and do what we can to help," said Jamison Hild, coordinator for VA Health Care for Homeless.

Multiple organizations teamed up for this event, including the local U.S. Veterans Center and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The organizations hit home the importance of letting veterans know that they're not alone, and that reaching out when you need help is critically important.

"We have 2.8 million veterans from the current conflicts," said William Winch, KOC chairman. "Twenty percent so far have been diagnosed with PTSD."

Josephine Dirksen, a member of the Sergeant Colton Levi Derr Foundation, said that asking, "How are you?" is more helpful than a, "Thank you for your service."

Dirksen continued, "In our case, I mean, we lost my brother. So, I mean it's really important to dig and ask those important questions - 'Do you need help? What can I do for you?' Really get those personal questions ... It's nice to get a thank you, but it's - they need more than that."

 Winch added that it is not difficult to receive support in a state like South Dakota.

"The Black Hills care. The area cares," Winch said. "If you look at all the donations we've got, people out here care. We really support our vets."

Many at the event talked about the struggles that PTSD poses for veterans and their families. Many don't realize they even have PTSD.

According to the foundation, not everyone has the same symptoms. Some show no signs at all, with symptoms only showing up many years later.

There is a striking, unfortunate irony between the efforts geared toward getting veterans to reach out when they need help and veterans not knowing where to turn to when they do run into trouble.

Dirksen said that the foundation, along with other groups, is looking to address the expansive challenge of tackling these issues head-on.

"We even have veterans that come to us that need help looking for a job," Dirksen said. "So, helping with resumes or reaching out to people. It's our goal to hit those points and help these vets in any way possible, and if it is getting a job or getting into counseling, that's some of our major goals."

To the foundation, asking why this is important to the community is self-explanatory.

"For some of us, looking at Colton's face - we remember the guys we lost, and we know we don't want to lose any more," Winch finished.

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