Iraq veteran volunteers at DNC for the experience - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Iraq veteran volunteers at DNC for the experience

Curtis Gipson is an Iraq War veteran who is volunteering at the Democratic National Convention. (Source: Cecelia Hanley/RNN) Curtis Gipson is an Iraq War veteran who is volunteering at the Democratic National Convention. (Source: Cecelia Hanley/RNN)

CHARLOTTE, NC (RNN) – A California Army vet says the Democrats are going out of their way to make veterans feel welcome and appreciated with meetings, councils, speakers and buttons.

Convention volunteer Curtis Gipson served at Fort Stewart, GA. His girlfriend helped him come to the DNC for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. He said everyone has been extremely nice – even before they found out he was a veteran.

The Iraq War veteran credits President George W. Bush for taking good care of the military, but said policies and programs weren't in place to take care of veterans.

"In four years, Obama has taken care of veterans and facilities, and the people who take care of veterans," Gipson said.

Gipson takes advantage of the services offered by Veterans Affairs, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects his sleep.

"I'm always alert, it makes it hard to sleep," he said.

When Gipson had returned from Iraq, his then-wife was driving through an intersection that had cameras to catch drivers running a red light – a driver going the other direction had triggered the camera that popped a flash.

"Instinctively, I tried to open the door and get out of the vehicle," he said. "The seatbelt and my ex-wife's voice stopped me."

Gipson said that the VA is now doing a lot for soldiers with PTSD, and he attends therapy sessions with all types of veterans, including some from World War II.

But he struggles with PTSD, and what he's experienced in war has changed him. He's been told that he has turned cold-hearted, and didn't cry at his brother's funeral.

"People were crying at the funeral, and I realized I'm not feeling what they were," he said. "Prior to the military, I felt that."

He does point out that some services between the military and the VA need to work overlap more.

When he left the Army and moved from Georgia back to California, he couldn't make all of his counseling sessions with the Army Career and Alumni Program – and that cost him.

Gipson injured his knee while serving, tearing his meniscus while carrying heaving rounds – he served on tanks. The army fixed his knee, but when he got out of the Army in 2006, he didn't think he had many job opportunities.

He wasn't aware of the scholarships offered to veterans – even to get heavy machinery training and license, something he was qualified to do because he drove a tank – and went into construction, ruining his knee. He now walks with a cane.

Now, Gipson is going back to school through the Post 9/11 GI Bill. He's attending community college, studying electrical construction and maintenance.

"I plan to go on and get a bachelor's degree in science, I plan to be a physicist," he said. "But now, I'm interested in politics."

He is a little annoyed that being a volunteer didn't give him access to any of the speeches, but he's staying positive.

"I still have [the president's] back, and will continue to have his back until November," Gipson said.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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