This weekend's event run by the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County was a huge success. It was amazing to see so many veterans and others ride in on their motorcycles honoring all those that have served and suffered with the invisible wounds of war. They rode from the Vietnam War Memorial in Holmdel, NJ to the Manasquan Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1838, where a barbecue was set up to greet them.
During the barbecue, there were tables set up by several organizations that offer services to veterans. It was great connecting with this little lovely in the photo. Sweetpea the bassett hound is a therapy dog doing a great job of keeping me in check while all of those loud motorcycles rolled in. She is part of a program that also does horse therapy. Operation Beachhead was also there to provide information about adaptive surfing, water sports, and sled hockey for veterans. Peaceful Warriors also provided information about trauma-sensitive meditation and got the word out about the free class for veterans every Wednesday evening.
As always, I met some really great people who care about not just supporting veterans, but doing what it takes to let them know we are here, we are listening, and we want to help. Your journey will not be one where you are walking alone. The veterans I spoke with were eager to share their stories and let me know how much it matters that I was willing to tell mine. They made me feel very much like I did on post at Fort Dix some years back. This was what it was like. We just "get it" and the shared camaraderie comes through ptsd and trauma, not just the uniform you wear because the uniforms, patches, experiences, etc. can be different, but the darkness is many times the same whether you've served in the military or not.
If you haven't seen the movie, Project 22, you need to. Medicinal Missions is the name of the production company that created it and these veterans chronical their trip of 22 days for the 22 reasons a day we've heard about, raising awareness, but also investigating and exploring the ways that people are dealing with it across the country. They explore sailing, yoga, meditation, motorcycle groups, dog therapy, counseling, equine therapy, etc. to demonstrate that there isn't going to be just one thing that helps veterans heal. You have to find what works for you and follow it for as long as it supports you and when you need to move on from that and try something else, go for it! Just don't give up!
A viewing of Project 22 was provided inside the VFW during the barbecue and a viewing was also set up some weeks back at Manasquan Highschool. I saw it at the high school at the prompting of my friend and I'm glad he asked me along. It hit home for me on many fronts and it has reminded me that although the path wasn't easy, I have paid attention to what is working and not working for me and I kept going. This is a great message, not just for veterans, but for all people who are suffering from PTSD, whatever your trauma may have been. There's no giving up, just a recognition that one thing works and maybe one thing doesn't. Keep trying, something will click, but most importantly know that there are so many people out there who care about you and what you are experiencing. Don't believe what your mind tells you about being the only one feeling this way. It isn't true. There is an entire population embedded in our society who feels just like you do....that I can promise you.
I was so glad that Sweetpea was present at the event on Sunday because she brought such smiles to all the veterans faces. One of the veterans got right down on the grass and laid down with her. This is how so many of the troops behaved when dogs were brought to the WTU at Fort Dix. There is something special about the unconditional love and presence of an animal. Your heart can't help but feel in their presence. This is "good medicine" for all of us.