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A veteran-to-veteran storytelling project designed to let Miami Valley veterans describe their own experiences, in their own words with a special focus on stories of re-entry into civilian life.

Veterans' Champions: Audrey Smith and Jay Wainscott

Audrey Smith and Jay Wainscott

Jay Wainscott is the director of the Dayton Vet Center and his colleague Audrey Smith is a Readjustment Counselor at the center. Together, they help veterans and their families cope with the trauma that often comes with military service. Scott and Smith have different professional backgrounds but helping veterans get back into life after serving is a passion they share.

Jay Wainscott: So, I began my career in community mental health, mostly in substance abuse. In that process of working with community mental health, I met a doctor and she encouraged me to explore my options at coming to work at the VA.

Audrey Smith: My private practice history was very much focused on trauma. So, trauma would be my link in and kind of the continuity through. So, the link between the work that I did 10 years prior to coming into the VA system was looking how trauma reproduces itself. You know, the intergenerational trauma. What it gets passed down? One of the unique focuses of the Vet Center is family - marriage and family and knowing what a toll service takes and how much active service families have to provide to keep a veteran well and functional. So, we want to take care of that whole family system and try to reduce the impact, you know, the detrimental impact on family members, children, spouses, mothers when a veteran is struggling to manage some of the effects.

Things that produce PTSD, traumas that produce PTSD, whether a person is diagnosed with PTSD or has all the symptoms, that part's not relevant to the Vet Center. We don't diagnose as part of our trade in the Vet Centers because the label is not as important as the experience. People are seeing things and having physiological and psychological reactions to what they've done in the call of duty. So, we're there to provide a safe place for them to come and process that however they would like to. Whether they want to do a trauma focused therapy. Or whether they want to do peer to peer counseling. Or if they just want to have a place to kind of talk about what it's like to get back into life after serving.

Jay Wainscott: I think, you know, when you're talking about the drawdown with Afghanistan going on and how that's impacting. I feel like we haven't even scratched the surface yet, that the veterans are right now processing. I'm only going to go with a veteran that I was working with yesterday that had seen me last week and it was not brought up at all. This week, it's not good. He lost three of his soldiers to suicide in the past week. Why didn't he show up for his appointment at 7:15? So, we call. We want to make sure that we're there. As a team, how we support each other is a tough job. You know, we deal with trauma day in and day out, from the moment we walk in the door to the time that we leave.

Audrey Smith: What does success look like? Well, we define that really in the veteran’s own words in terms of what they want for themselves. Honestly, it looks less like being completely at peace right for the rest of my life and never being upset by anything but more about recognizing the value, the meaning, the esteem, the worth that each of these people have. Seeing that value being played out in their jobs, in their schoolwork, in the choices that they make, in their partnerships and their families.

Jay Wainscott: What does success look like? I think for every individual that's up to them. Just exactly what you said, my role is to help facilitate that. We come from different disciplines with different educations and different experiences. That's intentional so that we are gathering that team approach and to come together and best serve the veterans and families that we serve.

Veterans' Voices is produced at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices by Will Davis and Tony Holloway, with support from Seth Gordon Ph.D. at the Wright State Veteran and Military Center. Financial support comes from Wright-Patt Credit Union.

Will Davis is a Community Voices producer and was a ComVox instructor for many years. He is now an instructor at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. Will is the producer of their "PodLab", a podcast producer in his own right. He served as project manager.
Tony Holloway is a self-taught radio producer and has been contributing his “Mixtape Stories” to WYSO since 2017. He has since become an editor for the Center of Community Voices and for a new season of "Veterans' Voices" called "Veteran Champions". He served as the Project Coordinator, facilitating conversations with all the participants.
Seth Gordon, Ph.D., is the director of the Veteran and Military Center at Wright State University and a Community Voices producer. Seth has worked with hundreds of student veterans through the VMC and works with other veteran support organizations in the region. He helped us define the direction of the current series and took part in three interviews.