It all began while waiting in line for tacos in Santa Barbara.
Chiropractor Dee Ann Nason of NorthGlen Chiropractic at 1306 W. Glenoaks Blvd. in Glendale began talking to a man waiting in line with her.
Before long, the man began talking about the challenges he was going through acclimating to civilian life. The war veteran had driven trucks and carried heavy equipment through much of his tour. The bouncing motion of the large trucks he drove led to back pain and a lack of sleep.
His story set a series of ideas in motion. Nason's first thought was, "He can't be the only one."
So she decided to establish the free Military Care Program, which caters to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking treatment for a variety of injuries, from lower back problems, to pain in the legs, shoulders, neck, elbows and wrist. The program began May 1.
"I spent 13 months in Vietnam, and you come back with a little less back than you started with," said Joe Puglia, a Glendale Community College counselor and retired Marine Corps captain. "Especially for the Iraqi and Afghan guys . . . . there is a lot of trauma to the back, a lot of falls."
Much of Nason's work involves treating veterans with chiropractic injuries. Other times, Nason's work is a hybrid of chiropractic and counseling. Some vets just want to talk about their time in the military and the difficulty they've had rejoining civilian life.
There are times, Nason said, when all they do is talk. No chiropractic work takes place.
For patients who may need additional or more intense counseling, Nason will refer patients to full-time counselors.
"It ranges from where they wear it on their sleeve, like they're just a complete wreck, almost nonfunctioning, to anger," Nason said. "The ones that I've worked with, they're lost. It's just that sense of 'I know I should be doing something, but I don't know.' It's like they're home, but they're not."
Nason's early promotional efforts for the Military Care Program involved word-of-mouth. Within two weeks, Nason began to schedule regular appointments for veterans.
For six months, patients get free chiropractic consultations, physical examinations and treatments.
"Any time you do something for vets, that's a nice gesture," Puglia said.