Vietnam vet receives Champion Award
ABOUT SAMUEL LUNA
OCCUPATION: Founder and president of Vets' Journey Home Texas Inc.
CONNECTION: Katy resident
FAST FACT: Luna is often called upon to speak about his work, especially to share his knowledge of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Samuel Luna knows there's a tendency with some military war veterans to ignore the emotional bile building inside them.
That's what Luna of Katy says he did for years after returning from the Vietnam War. He symbolically kept a "black box" of emotional baggage inside him that festered for years.
The black box metaphor alludes to unresolved issues that were unleashed when Luna served as an Army squad leader in the jungles of Vietnam from June 1968 to March 1969.
While on patrol in a rice paddy, a booby trap composed of poison-tipped stakes sunk into his leg. He recovered from the wound, but the war's lingering consequences took a toll on Luna's life.
Through the years, Luna increasingly became aware he wasn't the only vet from Vietnam or other wars wrestling with unresolved turmoil.
"America has no idea what war does to the human soul," says Luna. "When I dealt with Vietnam in 2005, I realized one of the biggest things I lost was my youth. I never had a youth."
The year 2005 is when Luna attended his first Vets Journey Home weekend in Maryland. The impact that weekend provided convinced him to found Vets' Journey Home Texas Inc. The nonprofit offers a weekend retreat at no to cost to veterans and active duty military personnel; it's a safe place where they can learn what their experiences in war did to their bodies and the role that those experiences continue to play in their daily lives.
For his volunteer services to help fellow veterans, Luna traveled to the White House and was among 11 individuals who on May 24 received the Vietnam Veterans Champion of Change Award, which is part of President Barack Obama's "Winning the Future" initiative.
The award is given to those who work to end veterans' homelessness, boost their employment, treat substance abuse and develop treatment programs for those dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder.
"It was a pretty emotional day," Luna says of receiving the award. "All veterans need to keep working on (receiving healing). It's an incredible journey."
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Local Advertising by PaperG