Iraq war veteran tells local leaders vet center is needed in Helena

2012-02-17T00:00:00Z Iraq war veteran tells local leaders vet center is needed in HelenaBy SANJAY TALWANI Independent Record Helena Independent Record
February 17, 2012 12:00 am  • 

A local Iraq war veteran with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder told local leaders Thursday of the need for a veterans center in Helena and how important such facilities can be in the treatment of PTSD.

Local veterans advocates, including retired Adj. Gen. Gene Prendergast and retired 1st Lt. Diane Carlson Evans, are continuing a campaign to bring a center here, hoping to get the VA to take a closer look at Helena.

The VA secretary said in December that it had no immediate plans to add such a facility here but would continue to look at ongoing needs.

Retired Army Sgt. Ryan Ranalli, a Capital High School  graduate, told the weekly Hometown Helena meeting that he enlisted in 2001, before the terrorist attacks of that year, with an interest in seeing the world. He was among the first waves of American troops to enter Iraq, crossing from Kuwait on March 21, 2003. He returned about a year later.

But friends have died, and others committed suicide, and Ranalli had little understanding of PSTD and traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

“I just couldn’t get out of my head that I wanted to go back to Iraq,” he said.

But on the way there, at Fort Campbell, Ky., Ranalli suffered seizures. He retired from the Army in 2008.

He’s received treatment for PTSD, all involving veterans centers, except in Helena. The veterans centers do not replace the VA, but fill needs the VA cannot, Ranalli said. It’s a place, he said, where veterans don’t have to worry about saying something wrong.

Just about all the counselors are veterans, and many of them have seen combat.

“They didn’t just read a book,” he said. “They understood what was going on too. A lot of them had been to the same places.”

Ranalli is working with Prendergast and Evans and others to raise awareness of the need for a veterans center and demonstrate community support for the facility  to the VA. Montana has such centers in Kalispell, Great Falls, Billings and Bozeman.

 “It’s an everyday thing,” Ranalli said of PTSD. “And if there’s a place where you can walk in and just talk to somebody … it’s a lot better than waiting or being turned away.”


Reporter Sanjay Talwani: 447-4086 or

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(6) Comments

  1. Longinus
    Report Abuse
    Longinus - February 17, 2012 10:27 pm
    This is a great idea and long over due. Let's just make sure it is for the Real Veterans. There are far too many phoney vet's in our area claiming to be veterans just for the attention.
  2. pichia
    Report Abuse
    pichia - February 17, 2012 1:20 pm
    I am surprised they don't have something organized out at the fort. It seems to me that's a place to at least start....
  3. SGT762
    Report Abuse
    SGT762 - February 17, 2012 12:16 pm
    GPAC, remove your head from your fourth point of contact. You are unbelievable.
  4. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - February 17, 2012 12:05 pm
    GPAC, please change your screen name. You are definately not about peace and in this case WAY off base. Tell ya what, go on over and sweet talk in the middle east. Word of advice, don't lose your head
  5. imadad
    Report Abuse
    imadad - February 17, 2012 11:04 am
    There is nothng to feel guilty about. Thank you to all of the men and women who have VOLUNTEERED there lives to allow everyone the right to express their feelings on most any subject. Please find a way to give our veterans a local place for the treatment on PTSD and any other ailment. I would also like to say that the VA Hospital here in Helena has sure come a long way. Years ago it was a place to stay away from, now it is the place to get much needed help for our veterans. Keep up the good work.
  6. GivePeaceAChance
    Report Abuse
    GivePeaceAChance - February 17, 2012 7:00 am
    Guilty consciences are hard to "treat" until the patient admits their guilt. Otherwise it knows at the soul.

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