The day Robert Elder was assigned to be part of the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team as a front-line medic was the best day of his life. He joined the Army when he was 20 years old and was trained as a medic, impassioned to serve his country and help the men and women of the United States Army. Robert served as an active-duty Army medic from 2003 to 2005 and was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005. Unfortunately, during that time, Robert experienced a traumatic brain injury. As a result of the injuries he suffered, he developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a substance use disorder. Despite the struggles he was experiencing, Robert refused to admit that he had PTSD or a substance use problem, even after he left the Service.
One day, Robert agreed to attend a group meeting for Veterans who were in recovery from PTSD and/or opioids. It was at this meeting that Robert met the counselor who would save his life. With her help, Robert finally admitted that he had a problem. The counselor helped Robert seek the treatment he needed and also helped him navigate the process of receiving his U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits as a disabled Army medic. To this day, Robert remains grateful to this counselor who, after 12 years, still carves out time to meet him monthly. She has been and remains the one constant for Robert and many Veterans like him at their local VA.
Robert’s inherent passion for helping others has now transitioned from his Service as an Army medic to being an active consumer advocate. While Robert was involved with a PTSD/addiction group, he was approached by a doctor who asked if he would be interested in joining the Community Veterans Engagement Board (CVEB). He agreed and currently volunteers with CVEB,* which is focused on helping Veterans and non-Veterans living with PTSD and addiction issues. The CVEB is made up of local panels of Veterans, scientists, and doctors who work together with relevant groups to improve patient care and treatment at VA hospitals across the country. Through his participation with the CVEB, Robert became aware of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Disorders Research Program (ASADRP). When he was invited to join the ASADRP Programmatic Panel, Robert was honored and excited to accept. He was especially excited to see so many people passionately eager to help Veterans and non-Veterans battling with addiction and PTSD issues. Through his work with these groups, he is able to help shape the landscape of treatment and patient care for those living with PTSD and substance abuse disorders. Robert shares, “It is wonderful to feel heard and respected on projects that will help improve peoples’ lives long into the future.”
When Robert is not volunteering with these programs or his local American Legion, he enjoys being outdoors with his wife and two children. He especially enjoys helping his wife in her garden and crab fishing with his son.
* Unfortunately, due to the local pandemic rules, Robert has not yet returned to his local American Legion volunteer position. Nevertheless, Robert is excited to return to volunteering locally when possible.
Last updated Monday, January 3, 2022