Patriots Point partners with VA, MUSC for PTSD recovery

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Patriots Point's new Vietnam{}experience is not just for tourists. It could also serve as a place for veterans to recover from the mental and emotional wounds of war.

In the hopes of bridging the gap between the dangers of PTSD and recovery, medical professionals from the VA and the Medical University of South Carolina took a walk back in time.

At the exhibit, dog tags are tangled and intertwined, similar to the PTSD gripping the mental and emotional well being of many of America's veteran

"I'm a veteran. I can console another veteran the way I know to console another veteran, but we don't know if that's the way the most effective way to help somebody up if they are in trouble," said David Sowers, a veteran and volunteer at Patriots Point.

Sowers spent eight months in Vietnam.

"When they hauled us around, they hauled us around in this," he said, pointing out one of the many vehicles on display at Patriots Point. "Six or eight Marines sitting on the deck here ready to go."

Back in the elements, Sowers provides a first-hand account and a deeper look inside the veterans' experience.

"You let down your guard when you come in here, and you see stuff you haven't seen in 50 or 60 years, so from that aspect there can be a healing process," he said.

"But we do have some areas that can be rough on PTSD."

It's a disorder that can flicker for a lifetime in patients, but the exhibit is a treatment center of sorts.

"Will it bring back bad memories? I hope so. Will it bring them back on terms that they can deal with? I'm sure of it," said Ron Acierno, a PTSD clinician and researcher.

It's called exposure therapy. Veterans are taken back in time to help with their present day life.

"What we want to do is give veterans who fought for our freedom their own freedom back that they've given up because of PTSD," said Acierno.

"The sweetest sound in the world are those blades when they are coming back to get you," said Sowers, recalling his time in Vietnam as he stands beside a helicopter.

Sowers used the day to learn how to help in his own way.

"I wanted to help us learn what we should do if we see a person in distress, what signs to look for, what should we do to help," he said.

It's a Lowcountry landmark now playing a small part in silencing the demons of war.

The Vietnam Experience exhibit and the rest of the Patriots Point museum are open from 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. every day of the week.

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