Navy veteran Walter Wilhelm worked in weapons aboard the USS Coral Sea off the coast of Vietnam during the war.
What happened after he returned home from military service in 1976 turned into a living hell for him — a litany of painful episodes over the years tied to an addiction to alcohol and pain medication and an internal battle with anger and feelings of shame. He lost his marriage and lost his children, among other traumatic events.
“It’s so grievous, so deep. You never forgive yourself,” said Wilhelm, who struggled for decades with forces he once thought he could never overcome let alone open up about and begin to heal.
Wilhelm said he had no idea about the significance of mental health until years after his military service and his treatment through the VA.
“It plays such a big role,” said Wilhelm, a resident at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center where he receives treatment for physical and mental health conditions. He attributes those services, along with another treatment through the VA — much newer and still being explored — to strides he has made so far.