Veterans Helping Veterans: Maine Military and Community Network Conference

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Supporting service-members and their families.

The Maine Military and Community Network held its annual conference in Augusta Thursday.

As we found out, it's an opportunity to pool resources and get veterans the help they deserve.

"You give us a mission to do and no matter what it takes, you have to do that mission. And then you send somebody back home to the civilian world where life is completely different."

Transitioning back into society proves to be one of the biggest challenges for veterans when they return home.

Strong and confident on the outside, yet isolated when it comes to facing their demons.

"I didn't want to ask for help. I self medicated for years with hard alcohol."

Jeffrey Paradis knows that struggle firsthand. After serving time in jail, the recovering alcoholic started running, all the way to the Boston Marathon Tough Ruck, carrying more than 50 pounds across the finish line in memory of his fallen brothers.

"It's extremely symbolic because the weight of that backpack does not even come close to the weight that's on the family members that didn't get to see their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters come home."

The Maine Military and Community Network Conference is bridging the gap between military service and civilian life, letting all veterans know that they are not alone.

"It takes the courage and the strength of a warrior to ask for help."

"Mental health, substance abuse and sexual trauma in the military are just some of the topics addressed, providing a unique opportunity for Veterans to network and most importantly to speak up."

"Find somebody that you feel comfortable with, that you feel safe with, to let them know. Because there are so many resources and there are so many people and organizations that are willing to help. And I think the first step is being able to say that you are willing to ask for that help."

Raquel Cruz Bono has more than thirty years of experience in the Navy and now serves as director of the Defense Health Agency.

She hopes conferences like this provide a platform for service-members to share their stories without judgment.

"Making that access occur without attaching any kind of stigma to it is extremely important."

You might not relate to the experience veterans have while fighting for out country but extending a hand when they return home is a nice start.

"Anybody that goes overseas and comes back home, just be patient and let them know that you're there."

The Maine Military and Community Network was established to better understand, prevent, and help address the challenges faced by current and former military members and their families.

More than 300 veterans, behavioral health providers and agencies attended the conference.