Veterans Empowering Veterans

“I’m a work in progress, we all are”, explained formerly homeless Air Force veteran, Robert Morrison. Morrison is now employed and taking computer classes at a local college thanks in large part to the work of Renee and Calvin Elder, founders of Veterans Empowering Veterans.

“Veterans Empowering Veterans is a community-based, non-profit organization that provides case management and counseling, employment training, housing, and benefit assistance to homeless veterans in Fayetteville, [NC] and surrounding areas. We promote and protect the rights of veterans through advocacy, public education, and partnerships with local, state, and national entities.”

When Renee opened the center two years ago, she had eight clients. Today,  over 130 veterans and their families visit Veterans Empowering Veterans for various services including: hot meals, legal services and computer and job training.

Click HERE to learn more about the organization or to donate.

Click HERE to read an article about Veterans Empowering Veterans in the FayObserver.

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Veterans Need More Than Applause

Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur recently wrote a great article on the need for civilians and the American government to connect with returning soldiers in a more meaningful way. Brodeur interviewed Sam Barrett, 30, an U.S. Army Airborne Ranger who did three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Barrett explains that the appreciative applause he and other veterans sometime receive is just not enough.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we carry that baggage in the transition from military to civilian,” he said. “When you thank a veteran, there should be some substance behind it.”

Broeduer asserts that the problem may stem from the nation’s general shift in attention from a variety of important issues (including veterans) to the economy situation of the country. Luckily, many people do still keep veterans in mind. Between the recent proposal of the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit (which offers businesses a financial reward for hiring unemployed and disabled veterans) and the establishment of Veterans Courts which handle nonviolent offenders with substance abuse issues and/or mental health disorders.

As for the rest of us? We can ask more questions, be sensitive to veterans’ stress or sadness, or just give them the benefit of the doubt, instead of viewing some of them as “ghosts in the street,” as Barrett called them.

“You can educate yourself as much as possible,” he said, “but understand that at some level, you just can’t go any deeper. You want to get it, but you can’t.

“And that’s OK.”

Click here to read the full article in the Seattle Times.

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Stand Down 2011

During war time, “Stand Down” is a term that describes the removal of exhausted soldiers from combat to a safe place to rest, enjoy warm meals, get new uniforms and receive medical care. Thanks to founders and Vietnam veterans, Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachison, “Stand Down” now refers to their grassroots, community based intervention program put in place to offer aid to the nation’s homeless veteran population. Stand Down events bring together homeless veterans for one to three days and provide them access to community resources and work to address problems on an individual basis.

“In the military, Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being. Today’s Stand Down affords the same opportunity to homeless veterans.” -National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

The first Stand Down was held in San Diego in 1988. Today, an average of 190 Stand Down events are held per year.

“Hundreds of homeless veterans are provided with a broad range of necessities including food, clothing, medical, legal and mental health assistance, job counseling and referral, and most importantly, companionship and camaraderie. It is a time for the community to connect with the homeless veteran population and address this crisis that affects each and every town, city and state in this country. The hand up — not a handout — philosophy of Stand Down is carried out through the work of hundreds of volunteers and organizations throughout the nation”

For more information on the history of Stand Down, click here.

To find a local Stand Down event, click here for a list of upcoming dates.


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Healing the Wounded Heart: Alternative Treatment for PTSD

For over a year now, Dr. Allen Roland has been working with veterans with PTSD in Northern California using his heart centered Healing the Wounded Heart therapy workshops and has experienced impressive results. Roland explains that after completing the eight week workshop, participants experience on average, a 58% symptom improvement.

“The purpose of the Healing the Wounded Heart Workshops is to penetrate the grey zone of guilt, aloneness and unworthiness, that many War Veterans diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experience, and this is done within a supportive group setting through heart centered self exploration, group sharing, guided visualization and action oriented homework ~ where love and joy eventually overcome fear and separation.”

Dr. Roland hopes the VA will begin funding this alternative treatment method. He explains,

“If combat veterans are responding positively to these once a week eight week action oriented heart centered workshops ~ it’s time for the VA to open the door to alternative healing methodologies which the rest of the country is already acknowledging, supporting and experiencing.

To read more about Healing the Wounded Heart workshops, click here.

To read an interview with General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s No. 2 officer, discussing alternative treatments in the National Journal, click here.

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Unconventional (and adorable!) Aid for Veterans

Soldier’s Best Friend is an non-profit organization that works to connect service dogs (or Therapeutic Companion Dogs) with veterans suffering from PTSD. SBF’S founder, Dr. John Burnham, feels that the intense human-animal bond can help ease a veterans transition back into society by providing a calming effect or comfort barrier when faced with anxiety or panic. The organization also hopes to help reduce the pet overpopulation problem in the United States. The FAQ section of the Soldier’s Best Friend website explains that 80% of veterans who participate in the program show improvement.

Program participant, Jerry Sweet from Phoenix, AZ explains how his dog Max has aided in his recovery, “I just feel like I got a life now. He’s brought my life back to me. The biggest thing he’s changed in my life is that at night, when I have nightmares from Vietnam, he wakes me up.”

To read a recent article from myFOXphoenix.com on SBF, click here.
For more information or to donate to Soldier’s Best Friend, visit their website at http://www.soldiersbestfriend.org/




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Operation Harmony: New Music Therapy Program for Veterans

Patti Patton-Bader, granddaughter of General George S. Patton, along with her husband founded the San Antonio based non profit organization, Soldiers’ Angels aimed at helping veterans and their families during and after duty. Operation Harmony is their newest project. Operation Harmony provides music lessons (some taught by other veterans) and instrument to troops involved in the Wounded Warrior Project.

“We received a letter from a mother about a soldier with traumatic brain damage, and she said he used to love to play guitar,” Patton-Bader said. “My husband is a musician, so we sent him a guitar. He played a whole song, every single note. He remembered it. It enabled him to get on a path of healing.”

Last year, the program raised nearly $20,000 in donations last year and was able to give away about 100 guitars in addition to keeping their headquarters open two days a week for lessons. Operation Harmony is a partnership with Yamaha Music & Wellness Institute and works to give American troops the ability and opportunity to heal and thrive through music.

“They do so much for people. Being a veteran, it’s humbling seeing what they do,” said Buddy Lee Dobberteen, an Iraq veteran. “They’re doing our job, picking up other vets. It’s a great example to follow.”

The Operation Harmony website explains the important role that music plays in both physical and emotional healing. Veterans becoming involved with music is said to improve their quality of life and reduce the impact of stress.

Click here to learn more about Operation Harmony or Soldiers’ Angels.

To read the full article, click here.

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Real Warriors Creates Resource Brochure for Military Families

The Real Warriors Campaign is one of many great organizations working to assist soldiers and veterans by not only providing mental health resources, but by working to remove the stigma that surrounds seeking help.  The Real Warriors Campaign “promotes help-seeking behavior among service members and veterans with invisible wounds and encourages service members to increase their awareness and use of these resources.”

Check out the brand new brochure designed specifically for military families that offers ten pages of free and confidential resources including a 24/7 help line offered by consultants at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

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Newsletter 07.17.11: Landlocked Film Fest, and more upcoming screenings

Click here to read our most recent newsletter. Or sign up on our mailing list so it will come directly to your inbox.

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What people are saying about “Hidden Battles”

Wonder what people are saying about “Hidden Battles?” We’ve been getting great feedback from around the country. We would love to hear what you think – email us your thoughts at info@hiddenbattles. In the meanwhile, wanted to share these kind words with you.

“Hidden Battles” is a timely and evocative documentary that looks beyond political rhetoric and polemics to focus on the very real human cost of war; any war. Poignant, engaging and disturbing, director Victoria Mills posits an important message about the real cost of killing another human being. Brilliant and highly recommended.”

George T. Marshall,
Executive Director/CEO
Rhode Island International Film Festival

“Poignant, fascinating, and stripped clean of film cliches about combat experience, Hidden Battles gets to the heart of how five very different former soldiers carry the burden of killing.”

Martha Davis
Forensic Psychologist and Director
“Doctors of the Dark Side”

“’Hidden Battles’ is an excellent film about war and the after effects of war. By telling the stories of the soldiers of war, of those who have killed, and how they cope with their killing after the shooting is over, Victoria Mills allows the film-goer to enter the lives of these people and to realize ‘that could be me.’ I think this film is very relevant for courses in sociology, criminology, political science, and psychology. But I also think it is important viewing for all Americans so we start to understand the toll war has on those who return.”

Professor Stephen Gibbons
Western Oregon University

“The complex and sometimes conflicting emotions they express about their combat experiences challenge facile assumptions about the psychological impact of war. Recommended viewing for any class that covers war.”
Dr. Holly Arrow
Director, Psychology of War Lab
University of Oregon

“Every veteran in America should see this powerful documentary.”

Barry G. Campbell
CEO and Founder
Veterans Quality of Life Access Network

“Hidden Battles” is a powerful testimony to war and it’s effects on those who fight in them. No matter what the reason, the human spirit and soul becomes darkened and scared. The journey out of that darkness is a long and difficult. “Hidden Battles” goes to different parts of the world to reveal the journey of men and women in this fight to find meaning in their war experiences. The world needs to see this film.

Shad Meshad
National Veterans Foundation

“Hidden Battles” offers inspiring examples of how different veterans coped with and continue to cope with the demons of war. It is a film I have recommended and will continue to recommend to those who work with and care about veterans. Director Victoria Mills lets the veterans speak for themselves, without analytical voiceovers or editorial comments— offering fresh insights into the complex ways war and combat can affect those who survive it, and the impact combat trauma ultimately can have on military families.

Robert M. Wilson
Executive Director
Veterans Education Project

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Five very heroic soldiers

Five veterans have stationed themselves at Fort Hood in Kileen, Texas campaigning for the right to heal. They are there as part of Operation Recovery, a program of Iraq Veterans Against the war, that is fighting to stop the deployment of traumatized troops.

In their most recent blog post, they talk about what they are hearing from soldiers as they make their presence known. Stories of drug abuse, suicides, and difficulty obtaining help.

Operation Recover is accepting donations. If you would like to help, click here.

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