It’s no secret that a significant number of American warfighters struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the suicide rate amongst veterans continues to make headlines. Warfighter Advance is taking the statistics personally and has made it their mission to help warfighters find solutions to cope with Post Traumatic Stress and other “mental illnesses”. The organization recently wrapped up their first ADVANCE 7-Day intervention program along the banks of the Potomac in Nanjemoy, Maryland. This isn’t your typical PTSd intervention program. First, notice the lower case “d”. Kathleen Hammett, AKA “Yoga Chick,” a volunteer with Warfighter Advance, asserts that Post Traumatic Stress shouldn’t be considered a “Disorder” to begin with. “It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal set of circumstances,” she explains.
That premise is a major component of the ADVANCE program. The volunteer corps that works with vets attending the training sessions is almost entirely made up of people who have been connected to the military; and they want warfighters seeking help to understand that their challenges aren’t abnormal and that they aren’t alone. “The people facilitating these retreats are almost exclusively vets helping vets,” Hammett explains. “The peer support is crucial – people who have been there and can say that you’re not crazy; people who have been deployed and have direct experience with PTSd.” The staff members who orchestrate the retreats include a board certified psychologist, a military chaplain, a corpsman, mentors and fitness and wellness professionals. The military connection isn’t the only thing that makes Warfighter Advance unique. Their program focuses on a holistic approach to handling PTSd. A typical day includes exercise and lectures on topics like reintegration, navigating the VA and benefits that are available to veterans.
There are group therapy sessions, one-on-one counseling sessions and therapeutic recreation activities like a ropes course and hikes. What you won’t find is the prescription of psychiatric medications or requirements for a clinical diagnosis. As stated on the organization’s website, the program “empowers through knowledge, emotional or spiritual development, community of shared experience and Veteran relationships.” Once vets have completed the retreat, they have not only learned strategies for coping with PTS, they are prepared to go out and spread their knowledge to their cohorts who may also be struggling with reintegration. Warfighter Advance has seven additional week-long retreats planned for 2017 and 12 are slated for 2018. They have a variety of fundraisers planned including two 5k races, a golf tournament and spirit nights at local businesses . They also rely on corporate donations and giving through their website to support their efforts. For more information about this organization, go to www.warfighteradvance.org
~by Jessica Heck