The Lead Nov. 12, 2021: Discussing mental health is part of the Veterans Day observance

It was present in every event we attended on Thursday.


We made it to Friday. It's been a week to remember, and Thursday's Veterans Day services were all remarkable. There were events at the Kerr County Courthouse, the Doyle School Community Center, Ken Stoepel Ford and the night was capped by a massive turnout for the Hill Country Gala. More on that below.


Join us at 9 a.m. this morning when Michelle McBryde stops by to discuss the potential problems Chronic Wasting Disease could present to Kerr County's deer population. The great and powerful George Eychner will also join us to discuss Kerrville's Lighted Christmas Parade, which is Nov. 20 downtown.




Kerrville Farmer's Market

A.C. Schreiner House, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library

4-6 p.m.

The Kerrville Farmers Market features growers and a producer-only market in downtown Kerrville. We offer a wide variety of locally sourced produce, meat, eggs, bread, cheese, beer, wine and a selection of prepared food, all sourced within the beautiful Texas Hill Country!

Sound Meditation with Jody

The Yoga Space, 804 Main St, Kerrville

Experience the first ever evening sound meditation. Calming, relaxing, tranquil modalities and Tibetan bowls ease you into your weekend on this Friday evening event. Deepen your own sense of renewal, personal balance and clarity of intentions as you relax into a guided meditation, bathed by the healing sounds of gongs, crystal & Tibetan bowls and other soothing instruments. Jody Emerson is a certified yoga instructor, meditation and sound healing facilitator. Information:

Today's Live Music Lineup

  • Pint and Plow, 6-8 p.m., Evan Ogden
  • Cafe at the Ridge, 6 p.m., Stan Morris
  • Hunt Store Cafe, 6 p.m., Josh and Kristi Grider
  • Southern Sky Cafe, 6:30 p.m., Matt Daniel
  • Trailhead Beer Garden at Schreiner University, 7-9 p.m., Big Joe Walker


Big Brothers Big Sisters 5k

Louise Hays Park

9 a.m.

5K Run or walk benefitting Big Brothers Big Sister of the Texas Hill Country. Big Brothers Big Sisters offers 1 to 1 mentoring service to youth in the Texas Hill Country.


  • We're partial to the 22nd annual Texas Furniture Makers Show at the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center. It's free. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here's why we like it:
  • If we're heading out for unique music, the one who catches our eyes and ears is Big Joe Walker, who plays at Trailhead Beer Garden. Here's how they describe him: "Seeing Big Joe Walker perform his bold brand of Texas country music removes any curiosity one has about how he got his nickname. The man fills a room, from his football lineman physique to his voice, personality, command of a stage, and natural sense of humor."


Kerr County had its first COVID-19 death in November, according to Thursday's report by the Texas Department of State Health Services. This death happened on Nov. 4. The death appears to have occurred out of the area. On Thursday, Peterson Regional Medical Center said it had six people hospitalized, including three, vaccinated. Peterson reported five new cases — there remain about 20 active cases in Kerr County.


When you see the crews from KPUB putting together the big lighted Christmas tree in front of the Kerr County Courthouse, you know we're getting closer.


Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Mary Woolridge gave a wide-ranging talk from mental health issues to female empowerment.

It was hard not to miss a Veterans Day event in Kerr County on Thursday, including the huge Hill Country Gala, which attracted more than 650 people.

While the events were full of gratitude for those who served, the underlying message is that veterans are in crisis, especially when it comes to mental health.

During a midday observance at the Doyle School Community Center, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Mary Woolridge discussed the mental health challenges by presenting sobering statistics of more than 1.7 million vets facing those afflictions, and approximately 25% of all veterans are homeless. The suicide rates are among the highest when it comes to veterans.

"I have found that veterans fall out of love with themselves," said Woolridge, who was a chief nursing executive during her long career in the Air Force. "I have found that some veterans have fallen into a state of despair."

Woolridge said those in need of mental health care are probably far greater than the statistics she presented.

Later Thursday night, Schreiner University's Toby Appleton, himself retired from the Army, listed off the four veterans services groups that the Hill County Gala was financially supporting from its fundraising efforts — all of them related to mental health needs.

Even during a luncheon at Ken Stoepel Ford, veterans recalled their service, including three Vietnam War friends, who described the feeling of shame about their service in the years following their return home and for many years to follow.

From right, Charlie Brown, Ron Hon and Allan Wells, back, are friends who all served in Vietnam. Brown and Wells served in the Navy, while Hon served in the Army. The three enjoyed lunch together at a Veterans Day event at Ken Stoepel Ford.

"I had a big campfire and I burned my uniforms, my pictures and I went on with that," said Charlie Brown, who drove up from Utopia to spend time with buddies Rex Hon and Dan Wells, who both live in Kerrville.

The three men, who all served in Vietnam between 1967 and 1970, are members of a motorcycle group that aims to help other veterans. The trauma of their service still lives.

For Brown, the stress of being drafted was a specter that haunted him in high school when he was growing up in the Texas Panhandle. Brown ended up serving in the Navy, serving as a combat cameraman.

The three said returning home was difficult, often hiding their service from others and just wanting to forget that it happened.

That was a point that Woolridge touched upon during her speech at Doyle.

"One veteran shared with me one time he says 'the war remains inside of me, I didn't know that it would stay there forever and ever,''' Woolridge said. "I know there are many experiences that will never be shared, and probably those experiences remain with you and with us."

The military's role in assessing mental health started in World War I when the intensity of artillery bombardments began manifesting itself physically in soldiers. Those soldiers may not have suffered wounds from a barrage, but it increased anxiety and fear to unbearable levels leading to mental breakdowns. Before the U.S. entered the war in 1917, British and French armies were wrestling with the problem — afflicting 15% of British soldiers discharged from service. U.S. psychiatrists pioneered some of the recovery work needed to get soldiers back to the battlefield.

Working with the American Legion, Dr. Thomas W. Salmon, a World War I-era psychiatrist, began treating veterans for mental health issues in the years following the war. A 1921 study by the Legion found that 27% of hospitalized veterans had a mental illness — a number that ballooned to more than 45% by 1927. However, every war is different, and at that time, even psychiatrists had doubts about the efficacy of their work.

A 2007 study by a pair of Australian researchers found that the challenges of treating mental health are different for every generation of the warfighter.

"The historian Edgar Jones compared the reported symptoms of nearly 1500 veterans who received pensions for post-combat disorders from 1900 to the Korean War with those of 400 veterans of the Persian Gulf War. No syndrome specific to any war could be identified," authors Hans Poll and Stephanie Oak wrote in the American Journal of Public Health. "According to Jones, the explanation given to war-related syndromes reflects broader cultural concerns as well as the state of medical knowledge and the way physicians categorize and interpret functional somatic presentations."

However, while the issues may not always be the same, the reality is that mental health plays a critical role for those returning to civilian life, especially those who served multiple tours of duty. Schreiner University historian Don Frazier said the more significant discussion about mental health and the military is critical.

"I think it was long overdue," Frazier said Tuesday night. "If you look at situations historically, they always came back different. Their family would say 'he was such a happy boy before he went off to the army. So, it was just sort of the burden of the family. It was burden the family had to bear."

For those attending the Hill Country Gala, Appleton was clear to say their money was going to help Together With Hill Country Veterans, which aims to stop suicides among veterans; Veterans Assistance Dogs, which provides support dogs for vets; the Hill Country Veterans Center; and Meals for Vets, which aims to serve underserved populations of vets in Hill Country.

In the end, it was just one night to remember, but for many, it's a non-stop fight to ensure that all veterans receive the help and care they need — not just a thank you for your service.

"I like to say welcome home," Brown said.


Kerr County Courthouse

The Doyle School Community Center

Ken Stoepel Ford

Hill Country Gala at Hill Country Youth Event Center

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