EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

September 16, 2012

Mass. program helps vets with combat stress


Doyle was out of money, living in his car and suffering with the memory of the 2007 blast when he sought help at Home Base and encountered veteran outreach coordinator Nick Dutter.

“I walked in the door and met Nick,” the Bronze Star recipient said. “First thing I asked him was, ‘Can we talk outside?’”

Doyle said Dutter, a 29-year-old Army veteran who also served in Iraq, gave him the boost he needed to start his treatment.

“I didn’t want a sales pitch. ... I just wanted to know that this place is OK,” Doyle said. “He speaks my language. He gave me the nod.”

Roger Knight, a 33-year-old Green Beret who worked as an Army weapons and intelligence specialist, is the veteran outreach director for Home Base. He interviewed for the job by satellite phone while still deployed in Afghanistan.

Knight works with Home Base’s three other decorated combat veterans to put a familiar face on a program that requires vets to first overcome what some see as a stigma about getting help.

“If you don’t have gunshot wounds ... or a missing limb, guys are like, ‘I’m OK.’ But they may not be,” Knight said.

Tommy Furlong, a 28-year-old who became an outreach coordinator in April after serving in Afghanistan, said he looks to build a common bond with veterans from the beginning.

“One of the first questions I ask is, ‘What branch are you with?’” he said.

Then he’ll tell them: “Oh, I’m a Marine.”

At Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Mass., Furlong and Dutter recently appealed to an audience of student veterans with the same approach while publicizing Home Base.

“Our boots were in the same sand as you guys,” Dutter told them.

The outreach coordinators also play a role in helping patients stick to what can be an intense treatment period that includes reliving war trauma.

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