As many as 20 percent of service members who have seen combat in Iraq or Afghanistan are battling post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Veterans Affairs.

For Vietnam veterans, the numbers are even higher at 30 percent.

John Beckling is a Vietnam veteran who now serves as a pastor at Harker Heights United Methodist Church. Beckling came to Central Texas last year. In September, he started the Combat Trauma Support Group for service members and their families at the church.

“These are warriors helping warriors,” Beckling said.

Service members who are combat veterans can come to the meetings with their spouses. They are served a meal and then break off into separate groups. Beckling’s wife also is a minister and leads the spouses group.

Beckling said multiple generations are in the support group, which includes Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan vets. He attended training to become a director for the Warrior Shield program. The program follows 12 steps, which are part of “The Combat Trauma Healing Manual” by Chris Adsit. The book was a combined effort of psychologists and veterans.

“This is not a treatment program, but rather a support and peer coaching program,” Beckling said, adding that being a combat veteran himself, he felt it was important to start this mission at his church. “Sometimes it’s just nice to talk to someone who understands.”

Information about the group is available on post at the Warrior Transition Brigade. There are no ranks discussed in the group and those who are interested should come in civilian clothes. The meetings are held off post, which provides for a safe environment for those dealing with combat stress.

“Dealing with wounds of the soul is hard, but what’s said here stays here,” Beckling said.

The group meets at church every Tuesday. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting begins at 7 p.m. Service members who have been in combat and their spouses are welcome.

Harker Heights United Methodist Church is at 208 W. Cardinal Lane.

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