Non-profit needs help to assist vets with PTSD

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial firsthand is an important and emotional trip for many veterans. But the cost of the trip to Washington D.C. could be putting the memorial out of reach for some.

Operation Freedom Bird has been taking veterans to see memorials in D.C. since the 80s. But lately, the organization says that it's been tough getting donations.

Vietnam veteran Patrick Lynch started the organization back in 1988.

"I wanted to see the wall, but not by myself. I wanted to go with the men that I served with," said Lynch.

So he did. And has been raising money ever since to take 50 vets on each trip. But lately he said the money has been hard to come by.

“We had to get the word out," said Lynch. He's still working to raise the few thousand dollars still needed for the November 9 trip.

The flights are taken care of by Southwest Airlines. But money for food, lodging and a shuttle is all raised by the non-profit. Lynch said it costs about $700 per person.

“It's a small project just affecting combat veterans that are basically going through PTSD," he says.

The project is helping veterans like Patrick Ziegert.

"They kind of brought me into their little mix and helped explain the way that they were dealing with stuff, and really allowed me to express myself and the concerns that I had to them," said Ziegert.

He said the hardest thing to overcome was losing three friends in combat.

"In a complex ambush about three months into the year-long deployment, so that was kind of a game-changer for me,” he said.

He said the turning point was during the wreath laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"Being able to put the pictures under the legs of the wreath was enough symbolism to help me get to the point where I can say goodbye without having to forget," said Ziegert.

And during moments like these, Lynch said counselors are on hand to help the vets through their healing journey.

"This way if they need to talk to someone there, they can talk,” said Lynch.

The non-profit will be taking 25 vets this year instead of 50 because of low funds.

If you would like more information on how you can help Operation Freedom Bird click here:
www.Operationfreedombird.org.