Family Calls for More Mental Health Support for Veterans
BOONVILLE - Americans commemorate Veterans Day with ceremonies, parades to honor and thank the men and women who have served their country. But for Gayle Favors and her fiancé, Pete Powell, beyond the appreciation, they want to remind friends and family of the need for mental support for veterans.
Favors said her grandson, Kenny Fredenburg joined the Marine Corps right after he graduated from high school at 19.
"I was proud that he is going to serve our country, and I was also afraid for him. But yet that's what he wanted to do and I support him one hundred percent. I went to his graduation and I hugged him and told him how proud I was of him." Favors said.
Fredenburg served two terms, totalling four years in Iraq. Now, he is a cage-fighter in Springfield. Favors said his wife and him are divorced and his wife has custody of the three children.
"He doesn't even want to see his three children, he doesn't pay child support, he doesn't want nothing to do nothing, nobody," Favors said. "He is different. He has shut everybody out. And to me, if they would have taught him how to go back into society the proper way, none of that would have happened."
Favors did not have contact information for her grandson, and KOMU 8 News tried to reach Fredenburg via Facebook, but he did not respond to our messages. When her grandson came back from war, Favors said, he wasn't the same boy who went into the military.
"I don't understand. The military takes you in and makes you strong and makes a man out of you. But they didn't learn him how to come back out into society and how to accept society the way it is. They just left him go." Favors said.
Powell, Favors' fiance, joined the Army in 1964 with the Engineer Battalion in Virginia. He said any family of a vet has to understand what these veterans went through.
" Love, kindness, appreciation... let them know how they feel about what they've been through," Powell said. "That's the closest thing they can have right now. It's gotta be a family-oriented situation. And on Veterans Day, that's the time to do it. To let them know that's their day."
For Powell, family support was the main thing that helped him get adjusted to real life when he came back from war. He said his family didn't leave him alone. His family members kept him active and involved in different things with them, so he wouldn't sit around and think about what he had been through. But Powell said it was a lot easier back in his time. Now, he said it's a different world and a different category of people coming back.
"That's what it takes. It takes family to be around you all the time. " Powell said.
He said the first year of coming back to reality was the hardest time.
"Now, you have a lot single guys that have nobody. And it's hard for them to cope. It's just like my fiancee was saying earlier, they don't know how to cope." Powell said. "They should have somebody actually listen to them, unlike going to a doctor who listens to you but that's just it. Doctors give you some medicines and they will see you next month. That doesn't work for a veteran. Veterans have a long term memory of what they went through."
Despite the needs of physical therapy on mental basis, Powell also said veterans themselves need to have a better attitude in welcoming all the support coming their way.
"The world owes them gratitude, but they don't owe them a living." Powell said.
Favors said she wishes her grandson would get some kind of evaluations that would help him with his other problems, so his bad dreams from his past experience would go away, and he could be more comfortable with himself.
"I wish that I could take every young man that goes over there and wrap them around my arms. The ones that are gone, I wish I could take those families and just tell them I wish I could have came home too. If I have lost my grandson, I don't know what I would have done," Favors said. "I'm very proud of him, I really am. I don't care what he feels or what he thinks. I still love him deep in my heart."
Their relationships with veterans make Favors and Powell want to get involved with the veterans community. Both of them are currently volunteering in the singing group for the "Cruise King Entertainment." They put on shows for the American Legion Post 202 in Columbia to raise money for the organization that supports veterans in dozens of ways.