Veteran Talk – Episode Fore!  A New Hope…

(Pensacola, Florida; May 20, 2022) – As Luke Skywalker helped the Rebel Alliance find a new hope against the darkness of the Empire, so too can we find new hope against the darkness of PTSD and other mental health challenges facing some veterans following military service.

I make no secret of my years-long frustration (well, ‘infuriation’ is a better word) at not being able to find a support group that would give me the time of day.  For many years I kept getting shunted aside and told I was ‘the wrong kind’ of veteran because my issues didn’t result from direct combat.  It was all done with ‘great sympathy’ for my plight, but, sorry; I was unqualified for their help.

I finally blew my proverbial top after watching the horrific scenes of our botched, shameful abandonment of Afghanistan.  Witnessing those scenes drove me over a mental edge, and I began trying to reach out to connect with other veterans again.  I was repeatedly hit with the stone wall of, “Sorry, you’re not the right kind of veteran; we’re only set up to support direct combat veterans,” but I refused to give up.  I found interim help through the Stop Soldier Suicide organization (https://stopsoldiersuicide.org/), and then collided with Drew (in a virtual way) over Facebook shortly thereafter.

Army veteran Drew Appelberg is working to start several initiatives, one of which is a support group/class using the Reboot Camp program (https://rebootrecovery.com/military/).  He and I corresponded over Facebook for months, and he was been pretty cool about gaining my trust.  I was extremely forthright about how angry and bitter I’ve become about being shunted aside simply for the ‘bad luck’ of not being the ‘right kind’ of veteran.  Drew, who is a combat-wounded veteran, patiently got past my defenses because he recognizes that any veteran can suffer real mental and physical injuries—and that those of us who were openly betrayed (and sometimes outright assaulted) by our leadership carry a special kind of distrust due to the ugly nature of the betrayals inflicted.

Drew and I were finally able to meet in person this past Monday over lunch.  Drew’s been struggling with figuring out how to get the word out…and that’s where my skill set as a career media specialist can come in handy.  He also admitted to feeling a bit overwhelmed because he has some big ideas for veteran support, but he was only one man so far.

I shamelessly stole a line from Batman Begins and told him, “Now we’re two.”

He and I are going to start meeting at his place biweekly for now, and he gave me permission to start using my postage-stamp-sized media empire to spread the word among veterans in the greater Pensacola area (and beyond if you don’t mind driving to northwest Pensacola).

Our immediate project is getting a regular support group running using the Reboot Camp program.  Drew has experience with their program, and he told me it’s been a benefit to him and his family as he moves forward in his own life.  One of the larger goals he shared with me was a desire to start a veterans home that would provide ‘halfway house’ services for wounded veterans of all types (physical and/or mental injuries) who are transitioning back to independent civilian life.  This particular project he envisions as a real home environment, and he’s quite adamant he intends to avoid anything with an ‘institutional’ setting.

However, that one is down the road a ways for him.  The immediate effort is to get the support group going to start building a small community of vets.

Just talking to Drew Monday over lunch unlocked some very painful things I’d had locked up in my own head for a very long time.  The conversation wasn’t some magical ‘cure all’ that suddenly turned my life into all peaches and roses, of course.  But the simple fact I was able to talk to a fellow veteran who understands what I’m talking about on a visceral level—and didn’t poo-poo the dangerous reality I lived with of waiting for my chief’s next assault—is what enabled me to start processing those particular issues.

In the end, that’s what it’s about.  We all have to process and work through our own issues.  Our mental hoarding, borne of years of trauma and living almost exclusively in survival mode, is our responsibility as independent adults to unload.  However, none of us have to do it alone, nor should we be forced to try.  Humans are social animals, and this very need for social cohesion is part of what makes our military so powerful.  We can, and did, rely on each other for our very lives.

We can do so again as we all move forward in civilian life.  If you’re in the Pensacola area and interested in joining up with Drew on this effort, feel free to contact me through the comments here, or at my email of sparks1524@gmail.com.  I’ll be happy to pass your contact information on to Drew so you and he can connect.  This group is open to all veterans who wrestle with PTSD issues, regardless of how those issues were generated. 

Standing together makes it easier for all of us to shoulder the effort of processing through our baggage, enabling us to find a new hope against the darkness.  There need be no singular ‘victor’ in this battle.  To defeat the darkness we all wrestle with, we only need each other’s encouragement, fellowship, and laughter.

If you are past your breaking point and feeling close to self-injury, I urge you to can 911 or the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, and then press 1.  They can provide you with immediate support.  You are not alone.  None of us have to be.  You don’t have to face the darkness alone; none of us do.  There are ways to find a new hope in your life.

So, again, if you’re in the greater Pensacola area and interested in joining up with Drew and I on the ground floor of his support network, please hit me up at sparks1524@gmail.com.  If you do email me, please allow a day or so for me to respond.  I’m busy with a number of writing projects, but I will  get back to you and let you know I forwarded your contact information to Drew. 

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– Check out my video on this topic at: https://youtu.be/OiB7HWIZmws

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– Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, and press 1; or, go to: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/hotline

– Reboot Camp: https://rebootrecovery.com/military/

– Stop Soldier Suicide: https://stopsoldiersuicide.org/

– The Reel Heroes: https://www.facebook.com/reelheroesoutdoors

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