My Day with Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans – Giving U™
April 21, 2010 – West Marin, California I work all the time. I may even be a workaholic, but I’m not sure. It’s hard for me to draw a distinct line between what is work and what is just plain fun. Really, that’s how much I love my job.
For instance, I spent most of my Saturday at a client event: The Rotary Ride for Veterans, put on by the Rotary Club of Napa and benefitting my client The Pathway Home.
The Pathway Home is the only nonprofit residential mental health treatment center for returning war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. After coming back from the war zone, these guys volunteer to live at The Pathway Home for 4-6 months to receive treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger management, and depression, as well as other injuries resulting from TBI (traumatic brain injuries).
I’m very proud to be associated with the organization. But yesterday, I wasn’t only proud, I was humbled.
Normally as a fundraising consultant, I spend most of my time out of the office (meeting funders, where I should be) and precious little time with the program participants. But on Saturday, I got to hang out with the guys for the first time. And I was impressed.
About 12 or so of the Pathway guys actually rode one of the 15-, 25-, or 50-mile courses. They looked pretty cool in their custom bike jerseys. One of the guys, Patrick, a double amputee, was a crank participant on his bike – he was going for the mighty 50 miler.
Unfortunately at about mile 30, Patrick took a spill on one of the down hills, and yet he continued to ride another 4-5 miles before the broken nose and broken ribs from the tumble sidelined him. Um, Yeah. Give me a minute to adjust to a whole new definition of words like “brave” and “gusty.”
Probably the most intense part of the day was just listening to people come up to our booth and tell us that they had a son, daughter, or brother over in Iraq or Afghanistan now. These relatives were worried. And I think it heartened them to see these guys who had come home, only to have to deal with the aftermath of war.
“Aftermath,” of course, being a pretty sanitized version of what these guys are going through. The Center for Military Health Policy Research recently conducted a study on the mental health and cognitive needs of returning service members. Of returning active duty U.S. military troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq:
- • 19.5% report experiencing a traumatic brain injury
- • 18.5% have PTSD
- • 14% meet the criteria for depression
- • 7% meet the criteria for multiple mental health problems
The way I think about it is this: the very emotions and behaviors that kept these guys alive in the war zone, need to be “unlearned” now that they’ve returned to civilian life. It’s tough to turn these learned behaviors — survival instincts — on and off. The Pathway Home provides them the medical and psychological treatment they need to re-adapt to living emotionally healthy lives with their families and within their community.
Probably the most interesting part of the day was listening to the guys when they were responding to the parents’ questions, telling them why they entered the program and how it “gave them their lives back.” These conversations were truly powerful, and a little overwhelming, to hear.
So while I was going to spend the rest of my weekend playing volleyball with friends in the park and looking at real estate, I was really thinking about everyone I met and how brave they are not only to serve our country, but also to come home and face the ongoing realities of war head on.
I am in awe of their sacrifice on the battlefield and also their dedication to a creating a new life for themselves once they’ve returned home.
I salute the Pathway Home guys for their bravery and service.
Won’t you take a moment to watch their 30-second videos?
Donate Now! As a client and a program I totally believe in, I will give a significant donation to The Pathway Home. You too can give a donation online!
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 and is filed under Hot Orgs.