John Caravella, a Vietnam veteran and board member of Veterans Heart Georgia, was the guest speaker Tuesday at the Hinesville Rotary Club’s weekly meeting at the La Quinta Inn & Suites.
The former infantry officer was introduced by club member and retired Army Col. Pete Hoffman, who described Caravella as a successful business consultant from Atlanta. He said Caravella’s business and combat experience contributed to his business success as well as a successful radio career.
Caravella said his remarks Tuesday actually were a preview of a seminar he will participate in Aug. 15 in Atlanta. The seminar is called “Moral Injury.”
“The seminar will include Dr. William Nash, a former Navy doctor, and Dr. Jonathan Shea, a clinical psychiatrist who coined the term, ‘moral injury,’” Caravella said. “When you move into a situation you’ve never been in before — like combat — you have to work your way through that.”
He said Veterans Heart Georgia helps veterans who’ve had difficulty working through their experiences in combat, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s like a network of veterans helping veterans.
Caravella talked about the “warrior’s journey,” which begins with his or her enlistment and continues through training to deployment to challenges that occur in combat, including that moral injury, to surviving and returning home. A new challenge is being able to transition back to the civilian world, he said.
When Caravella returned home from Vietnam in 1971 after serving a year with the 1st Cavalry Division about 60 miles east of Saigon, he said, no one was calling it PTSD.
In fact, the VA refused to recognize it until the late 1980s, he said. It had had names for centuries, called shell shock or war torn.
“Whether you came home with PTSD or not, we all came home changed,” he said, and then talked about the work of an author who compared modern-day PTSD symptoms to the experiences of the Greeks in Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.”
“Matt Gallagher, an Iraqi War infantry officer, wrote a book called ‘Kaboom.’ What impressed me most about Matt’s book is I could have written that book. His experiences and mine were the same, only they were 40 years apart,” he said.
Caravella said he saw a sign in an office once that read, “Wars change; warriors don’t. We’re all warriors.” He uses that thought to motivate Veterans Heart of Georgia to help fellow warriors.
He concluded his comments by inviting everyone to attend the seminar in Atlanta and added that his organization would like to expand its footprint throughout Georgia and is looking for volunteers.
In other business Tuesday, club member Mark Germonprez talked about the Rotary fishing tournament scheduled for Sept. 20 at the Sunbury Crab Company. Prizes will be awarded for the largest redfish (also called red drum) and speckled trout.
He said he needed more members to volunteer to help with getting sponsors and publicity for the event as well as workers on the day of the event. After making that request, a half-dozen members gave Germonprez their business cards as a way of saying they were volunteering.