American Legion Post 18 Commander Troy Mack, Finance Officer Lola Paluca, and Adjutant Eric Crafton had an in-depth discussion about the importance of service, transitioning to civilian life, being on active duty during COVID-19, working with local government, and much more.
When asked about depression, post-traumatic stress, and other mental health issues – in particular during this holiday season – Crafton said just providing a friendly ear to listen goes a long way.
“In the community, interacting with people, there’s just a lot of mental health issues that go unchecked,” Crafton, who is also North Bergen police officer, stated.
“Within the military community, or within any community, I think that the best thing you can do is never leave somebody alone: always try to engage with people.”
Paluca, who is still on active duty, discussed some of the additional challenges the current public health emergency has caused.
“I had to actually go to a basic training in California this past August, which had record high temperatures – 130 degrees I believe – working with a mask on during that period was not fun,” she recalled.
“Also, we saw a lot of soldiers that tested positive and they were obligated to quarantine and we saw a lot of people that had team leaders chopped out … we had to restructure, reorganize to make the missions a success – it affected a lot.”
As far as working with local municipalities and the county government, Mack said that veterans already have the mindset to succeed, they just need to be given a chance.
“Post 18, and I think other groups, really appreciate the opportunity to work with community partners: we’re ready, our members are ready to continue to serve. They already know how to win, they already know how to work, they just need opportunities and platforms to lead the way.”
The entire 40-minute conversation is embedded above and anyone seeking further information, such as how to donate, can visit their website: legionpost18.org.