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4/12/12: Poloncarz Welcomes "The Second Front" Exhibit to Erie County


Travelling Exhibition Underscores Veterans’ Continuing Battles with PTSD

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today welcomed a poignant and powerful exhibit, The Second Front, to the Edward A. Rath County Office Building.  Presented by the Lewis Henry Morgan Institute, SUNY-IT, Utica, and brought here by the Erie County Office of Veteran’s Services, The Second Front is a forensic-style exhibition that relates the stories of veterans fighting an internal battle with combat trauma, a battle that manifests itself through erratic and impaired driving.  Impaired driving is a leading cause of American soldiers dying or serving jail time when they return home and The Second Front presents the personal stories of combat veterans, told by combat veterans for combat veterans.

“Our veterans need to know that we care about them, the sacrifices they have made, and their contributions to our community and country,” said Poloncarz. “We need to make every effort to help our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to assist them in dealing with combat trauma, and to ease their transition back into civilian life. This exhibit is a powerful reminder of the burdens our veterans bear; as a community, we should all work to help ease those burdens.”

The Second Front uses words, images, and personal items from soldiers to illustrate that impaired driving is a symptom of a greater problem: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Each of the soldiers featured in the exhibit repeatedly used alcohol and drugs as they struggled with the disorder, and each repeatedly drove under the influence.

Candid interviews focus on the DWI experiences, suicide attempts, and jail time that followed their abuse of alcohol and drugs as avenues for fighting the effects of PTSD. Their stories, journeys through the criminal justice system, and desperate attempts to “feel normal again” share much in common and are the basis for the exhibit.

“With good weather in our midst and the steadfast return of combat veterans, it is only fitting to raise awareness of erratic driving,” said MAJ Carlos M. Benitez (Ret.), Director of Erie County Veteran’s Services. “We all need to be aware of the dangers of the road, whether the cause is the result of PTSD, texting, distracted driving or DWI.”

The travelling exhibit will be on display in the lobby area of the Rath building through April 27th.  For more information on The Second Front, visit      http://www.slideshare.net/LewisHenryMorganInstitute/second-front

For more information on the Erie County Office of Veteran’s Services, call 858-6363 or visit http://www.erie.gov/veterans/