Veterans Support Group Offers Up Compassion, Humor
Carol Metcalf-Roth grew up on military bases with a father who had a 30-year career in the Air Force, serving in World War II and Vietnam. Observing her family’s resilience during his service has informed her therapeutic approach to the work she does with veterans. Carol, a licensed MFT and Military Family Life Counselor, as well as an adjunct professor at Antioch University, volunteers with the Soldiers Project and conducts monthly support groups at Friendship Center specifically for veterans. Humor is an integral part of this work for Carol, also an accomplished stand-up comedian and actor.
“My father was my hero,” she says. “And Bob Hope was his hero, entertaining troops in war zones, bringing them love from home. Humor was a way of reframing the uncertain outcomes these soldiers faced.”
Working with those who struggle with cognitive impairment presents a unique challenge in a counseling setting. Carol’s approach begins with meeting participants where they are.
“I never correct them when they relate a memory,” she says. “The others who have milder memory loss often work with me to help them and then we all congratulate the speaker on sharing. We can always relax with a joke—shared laughter is a comfort. Oh, and of course snacks.”
Carol has been involved with Friendship Center since 2016, when she lent her talents to the annual Festival of Hearts event as a colorful character to mingle with guests. Shortly after that, she began facilitating this support group. Carol has continued the tradition of volunteering as entertaining characters for the Festival of Hearts, and this year she was presented with Friendship Center’s annual Big Heart award.
It has become apparent to Carol that the main thing bonding the veterans she works with is camaraderie with others who’ve shared similar service experiences.
“Like many World War Two vets, my dad would talk about how close the world came to being conquered by fascism, and cry about his lost fellow soldiers,” Carol says. “That inspired me to reach out to vets and do my best to make sure they are never forgotten.”
As we approach the national holiday of Veterans Day, Carol recognizes how important it is that vets have opportunities to share their stories
“Veterans have thanked me for listening to them and giving of my time,” she says. “Their wives have told me how much their husbands enjoy being in the group and how it helps them be less anxious. I also want to thank the women veterans I’ve had the honor of working with.”
In her support group meetings, after each participant shares, Carol salutes and thanks them for their service.
“Vets are like all of us,” she says. “They love their families, their country, and want to live in peace. They served so we can live in a free and democratic society. I salute them!”
The Veterans Support Group meets on the third Monday of each month at Friendship Center Montecito, from 2:00 to 3:30pm. All veterans are welcome to attend.