He could see it in their eyes: The men and women who were about to be deployed were scared; they were nervous, and they didn’t know what to expect.
As a former staff leader at Camp Atterbury, Sgt. Dwight Turner helped personnel about to be deployed by acting as a guide and letting them know what was to come. Being a staff leader also meant helping people who returned home get back into their daily lives.
Turner learned people who are struggling with the change don’t always give obvious signs.
On Monday, Turner told more than 100 people at the Indiana Masonic Home’s Veterans Day event about his job at Camp Atterbury and how important it is to make sure all members of the military get the help they need.
He has received 19 decorations, including the Purple Heart, Korean Defense Service Medal and Iraq Campaign Star. He was deployed in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.
Turner began working as a military service coordinator for the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs last month, but he spent the first few years after his deployment as the staff leader at Camp Atterbury, working with men and women before and after their deployment.
When speaking with them before they left for service, he could pick out who was scared by looking into their eyes, he said.
“They have that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look,” Turner said.
He said determining which people were struggling when they returned home was more difficult.
Many of the men and women who returned home didn’t know how to fit back into the life that had continued without them and needed help getting back into their old routines, Turner said.
He said the veterans who had difficulty returning to their lives often fit into one of two extremes — they would stand apart from the rest of the group and not talk to anyone or others would brag about their time away on deployment.
At Camp Atterbury, he could point the veterans to where they could get services, such as counseling and insurance benefits.
Now, as a coordinator with Veterans Affairs, Turner can help put veterans from all branches of the military in touch with the services they need.
“I don’t care who you are. What matters is taking care of soldiers,” Turner said.
The Veterans Day event also included a flag-raising ceremony by members of the Camp Atterbury Color Guard. The members raised the flag to the top of the pole before lowering it to half-staff in honor of the 15 former resident veterans of the masonic home who have died since last November.