Home From Front, Vet Continues to Serve

Despite ringing in his ears, Shawn Monroe listens to soldiers' stories.

ByABC News
March 9, 2009, 5:57 PM

OSHKOSH, Wis., March 10, 2009 -- Iraq War veteran Shawn Monroe doesn't need to read the newspapers or watch the evening news to know the effects of war.

The 30-year-old Oshkosh, Wis., man has the constant ringing in his ears and the pounding headaches as permanent reminders.

Four years ago, while patrolling in Baghdad, Monroe suffered an injury caused by an IED or improvised explosive device that exploded 10 feet away from him. At that time, he was a sergeant with the HHC 3-156 infantry regiment of the Louisiana National guard, based out of Lafayette.

Now Monroe, who served in Iraq from 2004 until 2005, is using his experience to help other soldiers returning from war readjust to life away from the war zone.

"We are there to advocate for these Iraq and Afghanistan guys that are having a little bit of a hard time reintegrating into civilian life," said Monroe, who is training as a peer counselor for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He helps veterans at two community-based outpatient clinics in Green Bay and Appleton, Wis.

Monroe understands fully what these returning soldiers are going through.

"A lot of people ask stupid questions like, 'did you kill anybody?'" Monroe said. "You don't want to hear those kinds of questions and you don't want to talk about it."

Ten years ago, Monroe, then 20, transferred from another university to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and enlisted in the National Guard. Two years later on Sept. 11, 2001, Monroe stopped going to class. He anticipated the abrupt call to go to the Middle East and he wanted to be ready.

But Monroe never received that call. Tired of waiting, he volunteered in 2004. Monroe served as a forward observer, acting as the eyes of the artillery unit. His position put him deep into enemy territory, within sight of the target. He then would relay enemy locations to the soldiers firing the cannons. Monroe was honorably discharged in September 2007.

"When I returned, there was no one assigned to help veterans through the system," he said. "I basically found my own way through."