Carrie Sconza of the Texas Veterans Commission

Carrie Sconza of the Texas Veterans Commission speaks at a training event for faith community leaders and lay leaders. The event was sponsored by the The Smith County Behavioral Health Leadership Team Thursday, April 12, 2018 at the Central Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas. (LouAnna Campbell, Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Enlisted. Officer. National Guard. Reserves. Active duty.

These were just some of the terms about 30 lay leaders, pastors and community leaders learned Thursday at Central Baptist Church. 

With 15 military installations in the state, Texas has become a veteran-friendly place to live, and the Smith County Behavioral Health Leadership Team and Texas Veterans Commission teamed up to give free training to faith, community and lay leaders. 

“Texas is home to almost 1.6 million military veterans, many of whom have experienced one or more forms of military-service-related trauma,” said Craig Combs, Texas Veterans Commission community partner coordinator.

The training gave those in attendance a glimpse into military culture and the stress and effects that continuous readiness has on military members and their families. 

Local mental health authorities like the Andrews Center are part of the programs the Texas Veterans Commission relies on to reach veterans. Now they are reaching out to faith-based communities to help veterans and those serving in the Reserves and National Guard. 

The veterans group is working with faith community members to give them skills in suicide awareness, military sexual trauma, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and moral injury.

The training also included information about women and rural veterans. 

Carrie Sconza, Texas Veterans Commission women and rural coordinator, said women are the fastest-growing demographic in the veteran community.

The commission is working to get women and rural veterans better care and better access to care.  

"Texas has the largest women's veterans population in the country, and many women don't even realize they are veterans," Sconza said. "And rural veterans have a lack of access to the internet and that keeps them from accessing the help they can get."

The commission is working to get a new program out to the rural communities. 

"Warrior Wise is in the late stages of approval," Sconza said. "This program will help us visit rural areas and partner with faith-based organizations for training and support. It will give rural communities knowledge on where to find resources for veterans and how to help those in need." 

Central Baptist Church Pastor Kim Beckham, who is the Behavioral Health Leadership Team faith community representative, said the church wants to help veterans. 

"We hosted the event so we can do a better job as a church providing resources and services so we're not guilty of just saying we support veterans," Beckham said. "We want to do this for our community and be a source of mental health for veterans. It's becoming easier to talk about mental health and not be ashamed of those issues."

Multimedia Journalist

I am a retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant. After a 21-year military career, in Security Forces, the military police of the Air Force, I went back to college for a journalism degree. I started working at the Tyler Morning Telegraph in June 2016.

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