ALCOA, Tenn. — One issue many veterans face after returning home is PTSD.
The VA says 30% of Vietnam veterans, 12% of Gulf Storm vets and 20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans suffer from anxiety and flashbacks.
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One East Tennessee family has an intimate understanding of that stress.
„It was devastating,“ Josh Gagnier said.
The weight of uncertainty took a toll.
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„We’d ask about military stuff, out whole lives, and we never got any information,“ Josh Gagnier said. „He never told us any stories.“
Josh Gagnier didn’t know how much pain his father really carried until after his death.
„We knew that he struggled with PTSD, but we didn’t understand what it was. We had no idea what he was going through in his mind,“ Josh Gagnier said.
In April 2017, Knox County deputies shot and killed 74-year-old Albert Gagnier after he walked outside his home in south Knox County with a gun.
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Albert Gagnier shot the gun in the air and down the street.
Deputies returned fire.
„That’s when we started to understand the struggle that some of these veterans go through,“ Josh Gagnier said. „And because of that, we thought it was—it would be selfish of us to just sit by and let it happen.“
So Josh didn’t.
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He hosted a coat drive for veterans outside Lowe’s in Alcoa for Veterans Day.
„We definitely appreciate your service,“ Josh Gagnier greeted a veteran stopping by on Monday.
It’s an event sponsored by his company, Phoenix Gear.
„We’ve got to meet with several active military, several veterans, and just to hear some of the stories—to hear their appreciation for what we’re trying to do is so encouraging for us as a business,“ Josh Gagnier said.
Phoenix Gear sells T-shirts, hats and other items–with the goal of encouraging veterans and their families to talk more about PTSD and its effects.
„Whether they have a wife, husband, family members, they don’t want to get them involved in that war,“ Josh Gagnier said. „So we want to be that voice, we want to be that partner with them, where they know we’ve got their six.“
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Josh says he wants to prevent another tragedy like the one he and his family lived.
„The hardest thing you’re ever going to do is get them to talk,“ Josh Gagnier said. „But you’ve got to keep going–you’ve got to break down that wall–that barrier.“
Josh Gagnier says his goal is to build a facility where veterans can get help.
He said he’s got work to do, but events like the coat drive Monday are encouraging.