"You gotta ask for help. You have to ask for help."

CLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Clearwater residents, local veterans and their families gathered for Veterans Day Thursday at Crest Lake Park. As food was being served and the band readying equipment, CW44’s Andrea Alvarez got a chance to speak with a local veteran who says his fight didn’t end when he landed back here on American soil.

“I was in Vietnam. I served on the First Airborne Division. I spent 90% of my time in the field. I was awarded the V device for Valor,” explained local military veteran Arthur Martel. A “V” Device is a metal capital letter V which distinguishes an award for heroism or valor in combat. And while he was proud to protect us at home, he said is was his return that shook him.

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“I came home. The hardest part was coming home. They didn’t recognize PTSD. It took years.. years. I was tired of it. Tired of not getting service that I needed,” he said as he wiped tears from his face. “I was involved with the outreach center. There was six of them across the country and they were going to close them down. So we went to Washington and we fought it. And now they’re all over the country. It’s the best thing. For me especially. It was Vietnam veterans running it. I got a lot of counseling there, you know.”

I asked him his advice for other fellow veterans.

“You gotta put your head out and you gotta ask for help. You have to ask for help, you know.”

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Now, he’s working to make sure other veterans are aware of the resources available to them.

“I’ve been married 49 years. I am so lucky and blessed to have her. I’m telling you. You have no idea how lucky I am, you know. My wife says ‘you gotta go down there and be part of it’,” he said while tearing up as he recalled the military services of his forefathers.

“My son, Patrick, he did seven tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. My grandfather served in World War I. Then my father, he was Army Corps, then my brother, John, he was United States Air Force. Then me, I’m the First Airborne and… here I am. “

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For more information on resources for local veterans in the Tampa Bay area, click here and here.