Through Point Man, veterans look after each other

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Messenger photo by Dianne Garrett
Members of Point Man International Ministries of Newark meet every Friday morning at Bob Evans in Newark for sharing, reminiscing, prayer and friendship. Pictured are, from left, Russell Clark and Andy Steyn of Newark and Scott Lincke of Whitehall.

Civilians read in the newspapers and see on television the troops leaving and returning from war, appreciating their sacrifices, but probably not thinking about what they experience while they are away or when they come home.

The soldiers know that often only another veteran can understand them, and that the same bonds that saw them through combat can guide them through the minefield of readjustment.

That’s where Point Man, an international support network by and for veterans, comes in.

In 1984 Point Man International Ministries, which has three groups in central Ohio, was established as a non-profit organization to bring spiritual and emotional healing to veterans and their families suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Initially established to support Vietnam veterans, the ministry now supports veterans of all wars, conflicts and other traumatic experiences. The success comes from veterans who have found freedom, hope and healing through their faith in Jesus Christ.

Point Man acts as a referral service to connect hurting soldiers, veterans, wives and other family members to their Outpost and other services for continued support and fellowship.

There are national conferences, international publications, radio, television and other media outlets to educate and raise awareness of veterans’ needs in 14 countries and 40 states.

The name comes from the point man who is in front of his unit looking and listening for the enemy. His mission is to find the enemy and protect the unit from surprise. He performs the dangerous mission because he cares for his buddies.

Point Man provides a safe non-threatening environment, and is an organization "for vets by vets." They serve the entire family, including spouses, parents, grandparents and children.

Getting together

Every Friday morning between 6 and 6:30 a.m. a core group meets in Newark at Bob Evans for breakfast. They talk about anything that is on their minds.

Russell Clark heads up the Newark group. He has been a Methodist minister for 35 years. The infantry officer was in the Marines from 1968-1971, and was in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.

The group includes Andy Steyn, who has owned his own company for 26 years. He served from 1978-1981 in the Army Airborne in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. The South African was a bush fighter, and was in the "parabats," parachutists who jump in at night. He was one of 136 Special Forces, and was trained by a Green Beret Vietnam veteran.

When Rhodesia lost the war and became Zimbabwe, his family disintegrated. They began moving away to other areas. He said that, like Vietnam vets, there was a great sense of loss. He had to leave, too.

Steyn landed in the United States in 1983 with $132 in his pocket. With his flying background, and knowing there was a shortage of commercial pilots in the U.S., he found his direction. He became a commercial pilot, and by 1989 a U.S. citizen.

"I am so very grateful to be able to be an American," said Steyn.

He is an active member of Point Man, and wants to help the organization find a permanent home. For the past three years, in between his obligations to family and his business, he has been working on a book.

He wants to help raise money to be able to purchase a house or some kind of building so that fellow veterans and Point Man members can have a place to hang out. It would be called "The Landing Zone." There would also be a Point Man office located at the facility.

"I live by the ‘Code of Honor’…I believe in myself; I believe in my unit; I believe in my country, and above all I believe in God," Steyn said.

Scott Lincke of Whitehall, another member of Point Man, was a medic in the Army from 1983-1986 in Germany.

"I didn’t see anything like what Russ and Andy saw," Lincke relates. "I didn’t see war action or casualties. I went out with infantry on their maneuvers, and was there if they got injured."

Arlin Hill of Newark served as an E-4 Sgt. US Air Force for five and a half years during the Cold War, after the Vietnam war. He has been a member of Point Man for three years.

He said that the Christian veterans organization offers a great place to talk and share problems with other and families.

"I’ve seen a lot of lives change for people through Point Man. Some come and have a hard time opening up, but after seeing what a caring and understanding group it is, they begin to share," he said. "I’ve seen miracles. During Vietnam there was no place for us to go for any kind of help but the VA clinics. Point Man gives us a non-threatening, non-political environment."

Learning to trust

Army Sgt. Sean Hall is stationed at Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Ga. He was in the military for 18 years, got out, and then came back this past January. He has a three-year contract, and afterwards he will likely retire.

He has been a Point Man member for four years. He was introduced to the group by an old high school buddy in Heath a few days before his deployment to Iraq.

He has dealt with PTSD for himself and with others over the years, and has learned a lot about helping to deal with the disorder. He plans to learn as much as he can about PTSD so that when he returns, everyone doesn’t have to rely on Clark as much.

He stays in close contact with Clark, and noted there are many benefits from Point Man.

"PTSDs do not necessarily have to come from combat. It can be the result of anything traumatic in a person’s life," he explained.

This has been the experience of Julie Petry, who went into the Air Force thinking it would be a career. The former staff sergean was stationed in Hawai and was the only female crew member for three and a half years.

She was on a C-130, which she described as "a big parking garage." She endured being taped up and left alone by the men in the unit, as well as inappropriate remarks, advances and threats from fellow soldiers and supervisors.

When she came back, she did not talk about her military time for many years.

In 2002 she finished college at Mt. Vernon Nazarene College, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration. But she has been fired from several jobs because of her PTSD, and is still in therapy. She has suffered from panic attacks, nightmares and night sweats.

She joined Point Man three years ago. It was hard when she was the only female at her first meeting. However, she soon learned that she was in a non-threatening environment, and was able to begin opening up. There are now four females in her group.

She became tearful and said, "Please stress that Point Man is safe. They will help you instead of hurt you. They can help with healing, and it is going to take us veterans to change the way women are still being treated."

Point Man groups meet in Newark on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the old fire house at 71 Maholm, Hilliard on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at 3883 Darbyshire Drive, and in Dublin on Fridays at 7 p.m. at the Dublin Baptist Church, 7195 Coffman Road. There is also a 24-hour help line at 1-740-814-VETS.

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