76-year-old veteran remembers the power of peer support

Making connections through peer support

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Anyone who's been to a support group can relate to this.

Some 50 years ago, a football player lost his eye opening a bundle of newspapers.

He was so upset, he wouldn't talk to anyone. The one person who did get through, was a Vietnam veteran.

That veteran told WUSA9 what happened through his eyes.

Those who know 76-year-old Brad Snyder know he can only actually see through one eye. Snyder lost his right eye after he was shot in the head serving in Vietnam.

He went on to helping other wounded veterans after his military career, until one day. Snyder says he got a call from concerned parents of all-star high school football player, who not only lost his eye but berated everyone who tried to help.

"I came into the room and said, 'I'm Brad Snyder. And he just interrupted me and said, 'are you one of those bump-bump do-gooders that are going to tell me I'm going to be alright and my life's going to be the same?,” Snyder said.

Without saying another word, the veteran said he walked-up to the bed and popped his fake eye out.

"Fssss,” said Snyder imitating a sound, “flipped up and went right in his lap. He wouldn't touch it. He wouldn't touch it. He wouldn't pick it up. He wouldn't give it back to me. I said, 'Pick it up. Give it back to me because that's what you're going to have.”

That moment was the game changer. Snyder says they ended up talking for two hours. They connected because they had a similar injury. This is called peer support, it's what the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors facilitates for grieving military family members.

Founder Bonnie Carroll told WUSA9, “… and to connect them with another who truly understands is incredibly empowering and healing.”

T.A.P.S. recently sponsored a scientific study that not only goes over the actual results, but provides a peer support model that they hope all groups can follow, whether that's T.A.P.S., cancer support groups or alcoholics anonymous.

Yes, Snyder says this type of direct peer support helped the football player, but for him, it was also a form of therapy.

"I felt,” Snyder said looking down and then looking back up, “useful.”

There are other peer group studies but T.A.P.S.’ founder believes this is the first of its kind.

As for that football player, Snyder says he lost touch but knows the kid did go onto college. Snyder is retired and still councils the injured. He’s also a former T.A.P.S. board member.

The Peer Support for Bereaved Survivors will be posted here

(© 2017 WUSA)


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