Coming Home PA is a project about veterans’ return to civilian life spearheaded by PublicSource and reported in cooperation with its local media partners, who include WESA (90.5), The Allegheny Front, The New Pittsburgh Courier, The Pittsburgh City Paper, Pop City and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Half the tattoo covering one shoulder of Robert G. Ryberg III seems to be sandblasted away. In 2010, during the last of his two tours of Iraq as an Army infantryman, Ryberg took part of an IED to his right side, including his forehead. He broke both orbital bones in his face, as well as his collarbone. He had internal bleeding in his brain, and post-concussive symptoms.
But for many troops coming home to Western Pennsylvania from Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere — what some officials have called “the coming tsunami” of veterans looking for work in a fragile job market — that sacrifice isn’t ending when they receive their discharge papers.
Stacy Bare leads the Sierra Club's program to get veterans and their families outdoors. The mission is "to ensure those who defended our country and their families get to enjoy the land they served." Bare is a veteran himself, having served in Iraq. While he admits his experience wasn't nearly as difficult as many people who served there, he witnessed atrocities and subsequently struggled with drugs and suicidal thoughts. This interview with Allegheny Front host Jennifer Szweda Jordan contains content that might be difficult for some listeners to hear.
When people in the military come back from war, it's often not an easy transition. Sometimes, interacting with the environment is a source of comfort. Some take part in action sports for that rush of adrenaline. Others find camaraderie in group outings. The Allegheny Front's Jenelle Pifer recently spoke to one U.S. Navy sailor from Western PA about his experiences outdoors before, during and after war.