Life Lessons: Giving an hour to wounded warriors

Author: , Anchor / Reporter, NWerteen@wfmz.com
Published: Aug 12 2013 05:00:00 AM EDT

Since the U.S. went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 6,700 servicemen and women have lost their lives and at least 50,000 more have been physically wounded, but it's the wounds you can't see that are proving just as devastating.

Now one woman's vision is helping thousands heal their invisible psychological scars.

Just six weeks after Marine Justin Constantine's first deployment to Iraq in 2006, a sniper shot him in the head.

"The Marines around me thought I had been killed," says Justin Constantine, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps.

But thanks to a young medic and his then girlfriend Dahlia, Justin survived.

"When I woke up, she was there," Justin says.

Since then the two have married, but it hasn't been easy. Justin's had 25 reconstructive surgeries and like one in five other service members, suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"A lot of nightmares, trouble sleeping, hyper-vigilance, and the slightest noise would wake me up," explains Justin.

Justin's wife Dahlia Constantine recalls, "I didn't know what to do and I didn't know how to cope with it."

Veterans also account for 20% of U.S. suicides, averaging one a day.

That's why psychologist Barbara Van Dahlen started the non-profit website www.giveanhour.org, a national network of 7,000 mental health care professionals offering free counseling to folks like Justin and their families.

"It's for as much care as you want; there's no limit, there's no paperwork, there's no cost. Period," explains Van Dahlen.

The organization began as a way for Van Dahlen to honor her father, a World War II vet.

"I think he'd be proud," says Van Dahlen.

Now in its eighth year Give an Hour's given 87,000 hours, worth 8.7 million dollars in care. Helping folks like the Constantines.

"I've seen a huge difference," says Dahlia.

"I just know what my triggers are and how to deal with them," explains Justin. "I wouldn't know that if I hadn't gone to a lot of counseling."

Justin continues to use Give an Hour's services and recently accepted a position on Give an Hour's board of directors.

Van Dahlen was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 top most influential people in the world last year for her work with Give an Hour.