Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha, pictured left, to speak at networking event on April 4 at 6 p.m. EST in New York City. America’s Warrior Partnership is hosting its next “Camouflage & Cocktails” networking event to celebrate empowered military veterans.
Sponsored by First Data, OppenheimerFunds, Apollo Global Management and Natixis Investment Managers, the event will take place in New York City at Carnegie Hall on April 4 starting at 6 p.m. EST.
The event will recognize business and civic leaders who are supporting veteran-friendly workplaces and communities, while also providing attendees the opportunity to network and learn how they can contribute to the movement of empowering veterans. Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha will serve as the evening’s honorary host and speak to attendees about how communities can bridge the gap between veteran and civilian cultures.
“An empowered veteran claims the right to thrive within their community rather than simply survive, and Clint embodies that definition,” said Jim Lorraine, president and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership. “It is one thing to understand what makes an empowered veteran. The true challenge lies in coming together to provide veterans with the means and opportunity to achieve the quality of life they deserve. We look forward to learning from Clint’s experiences alongside attendees as we work together to create more veteran-friendly communities.”
Before commencing the “Camouflage & Cocktails” evening event, Clint will join America’s Warrior Partnership in visiting several New York-based businesses on April 4 to speak with employees and recognize their dedication to creating veteran-friendly workplace environments. Donations raised during the evening event will support ongoing programs and initiatives from America’s Warrior Partnership that are empowering communities to empower veterans.
America’s Warrior Partnership is committed to empowering communities to empower veterans. We fill the gaps that exist between current veteran service organizations by helping nonprofits connect with the veterans, military members and families in need: bolstering their efficacy, improving their results and empowering their initiatives. America’s Warrior Partnership is a force multiplier for warrior community integration that enhances communities where great Americans choose to live and contribute. For more information on the organization and how to get involved, visit AmericasWarriorPartnership.org.
Honor. Courage. Commitment. When University of California, Irvine School of Law graduate Caitlin Emmons’ husband enlisted as a United States Marine, her family put these values above all others.
Military spouses do not attend boot camp, they do not put their lives on the line, and they do not have rank. They serve in a different capacity by placing their dreams on hold, by taking care of the home front, and by holding dear the same values that their spouses pledged their lives to uphold.
From being CEO of the home to being professionals across many industries, military spouses are an incredible powerhouse of strength across our nation. For those military spouses who are in professions requiring specialized licensing, they are faced with a never-ending patchwork of rules to overcome.
For those businesses and organizations that understand this potential, they unlock a determination to serve unlike any other when they recruit military spouses into their communities.
Military spouse and public interest attorney Caitlin Emmons decided to attend law school long before she became a military spouse.
When she married her Marine, she was challenged to deeply reflect on how she could realize her dream of being a loving wife and mother and still play her part in building a more just society as a lawyer. Given her USMC spouse’s military occupational specialty and it being their home of record, Caitlin hedged her bets and took the California Bar after graduating from UCI Law.
The bets did not pay off because afterwards, she and her husband were called to North Carolina. Once she accepted that she would not be a practicing attorney in California for the foreseeable future, she tackled the next major decision to create the strongest way forward.
Taking a bar exam is prohibitively expensive, especially when you are living on a military salary. With two children under two years old, Caitlin placed family first in true military spouse tradition. In Caitlin’s case, she sought alternatives that would keep her connected to the legal community but did not require a law license. While many employers see military spouses as a countdown clock, always a few years away from the next move, Caitlin eventually landed a position as a judicial assistant for the Honorable Charles Henry, who specifically hired military spouses.
Caitlin was incredibly grateful for the position since it was unique, especially for the area they were in.
After three years in North Carolina, Caitlin’s husband received orders back to California and she immediately connected with Veterans Legal Institute (VLI).
Caitlin found herself seeking to extend her family’s service by dedicating her life to public interest law directed at lifting up Veterans in need.
Veterans Legal Institute is a free law firm that is dedicated to low income and at-risk California Veterans. It serves close to 2,000 Veterans each year and during the COVID-19 pandemic, immediately adjusted its service to accommodate Veterans virtually. Further, in line with its mission, Veterans Legal Institute is always seeking to hire Veterans and military spouses.
With a small grant from the Starcare Foundation, Veterans Legal Institute was able to secure Caitlin a part-time position so that she could pursue her passion of serving Veterans.
When asked why she pursues public interest work at Veterans Legal Institute, Caitlin states: “As a military spouse, I have seen firsthand what service can do to a person. I can testify to the pride that service members feel. Working with Veterans, I can also confirm that so many are returning home to restart their lives, forever changed by their military experience. Our nation collectively owes them a debt. Military spouses are uniquely positioned to fill the needs faced by our Veterans because of our military cultural competence. The fight to restore the honor of their service is a righteous one, and it is one I am prepared to continue with honor, courage, and commitment.”
Are you seeking to stand with our Veterans of today and tomorrow? Become a champion for public interest law. Help eradicate barriers to housing, employment, education, and healthcare.
Seven years ago, Coast Guard veteran and PVA member Kaleb Wilson took a $100 bet that changed his life.
Some friends dared him to jump off a pier. He was 22 years old, and he figured he’d do it—it’s $100, right?
So, he dove in headfirst and hit the bottom, shattering several vertebrae. Instead of celebrating his win with friends, he found himself in a New Orleans Trauma Center, paralyzed.
With his sweetheart Brittany by his side, he fought tooth and nail with one goal in mind: He wanted to walk down the aisle on their wedding day. She had been there for him during his recovery and rehab, and now he made it his mission to be there for her, standing across from her at the altar, and dancing at their wedding. With a lot of love, support, and hard work, he made it happen.
Wilson had been interested in joining the military ever since he was a little boy. He was a swimmer in high school, and started looking into programs with the Navy and the Air Force. But it was the Coast Guard that caught his attention. He was drawn to rescue swimming. “I knew it was where I needed to be,” he says.
He was a part of the Coast Guard for three years. After he graduated from boot camp he was assigned to a station in New Orleans, where he worked doing search and rescue missions, intercepting drug shipments, escorting vessels into the Gulf, and patrolling rivers and lakes. He loved his job, and he enjoyed the culture in New Orleans. He was a young man enjoying his career, living in a lively city, in love with a beautiful girl. Wilson was on the list to go to “A” school in November of 2012 when he took that fateful dare that landed him in a wheelchair.
A New Normal
Becoming paralyzed presents a whole host of challenges, of course, not just for the injured, but for those closest to them. Wilson and Brittany had to work together with trust and focus in order to adjust to their new normal. They relied on each other, and became stronger together. He proposed in 2013; they married in 2014, both of them standing for the ceremony.
They also relied on Paralyzed Veterans of America. During rehab and recovery, PVA helped Wilson with benefits information, and later on, with vocational rehab benefits allowing him to return to school to pursue a chemical engineering degree. A couple of years ago, Wilson competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in swimming, and was inspired to join the Mountain State chapter of PVA, serving on the Board and as Treasurer.
He has attended two Games so far, most recently in Louisville, where he brought home seven medals in swimming, rugby, and field events. “It’s nice to be around people who are in a similar situation as I am, who understand what you are going through,” he says. “Brittany loves it, too, because she gets to socialize with other wives who know what we’re dealing with, and we get to come together with friends who live around the country.”
He and Brittany are in the process of moving to Illinois, where he will transfer his membership to the Vaughn chapter of PVA and do some volunteering for fellow veteran Noah Currier with his Oscar Mike Foundation.
“It’s not just money that keeps these programs running, it’s volunteers, too. I don’t want to be somebody who just takes, takes, takes. I want to give back.”
Today, Wilson is a loving and happy husband, and delighted father of two little girls, with a third child on the way. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Coast Guard.
“Seven years ago, I sustained my injury that ended my time actively serving in the Coast Guard, but that did not take away the fact that I still am a Coastie. I still feel at home around my fellow Coasties; I still feel connected in the way I always have. I may not serve beside them anymore, but I will always be a part of them!”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced the reestablishment of in-person benefits services in select locations throughout the country.
Currently, there are 11 regional offices (RO) open to the public and more are expected to reopen in the coming weeks as reopening phases will vary by RO and local conditions.
“During the last few months, VA regional offices continued performing our essential mission virtually — to provide benefits to Veterans and eligible family members,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We have robust safety measures in place that will allow us to resume in-person services while protecting the health and safety of Veterans, their families and our team members who serve them.”
Veterans can continue to interact with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) virtually for accessing benefits information online or when filing a claim online. For claim-specific questions call 1-800-827-1000. To check the availability of an RO near you, visit VA benefits offices.
VBA’s return to normal, pre-COVID-19 public-facing operations align with White House guidelines for re-opening. Read more about our response to COVID-19.
There’s no better way to honor a fallen guitarist than to shred.
After the death of legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen, who at 65 lost a battle with cancer on Oct. 6, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the web to share a live tribute in honor of the late musician on Facebook.
“I wanted to show my respect but mainly my emotions for what had happened,” West told Military Times in a text conversation.
Now, his video has over a million views and thousands of comments.
“It felt great but not for myself but for Eddie!” West said.
If you pull the trigger on a gun that fast, you could win a war on your own,” wrote user Michael Mottram. “Awesome playing and cheers for your service fella.”
During the three-minute tribute, West covered some of Van Halen’s best-known works, including “Eruption.”
West hopes that people enjoyed the music and feel inspired. The 26-year-old has been playing for 13 years, and did a tour with the U.S. Army Soldier Show in 2015, which stopped at 74 bases. He once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.
“We never rehearsed the song or played together, and it was done flawlessly in front of 10k people!” he noted.
The fact that so many watched “showed how much love people had for him and what he’s done for music,” he added.
It was 11:18 a.m. on October 12, 2000 aboard the Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). The ship had arrived in Yemen that morning for a brief fuel stop after completing a lengthy transit of the Suez Canal the day prior.
Suddenly,the lights went out and all ventilation stopped. An explosion had occurred on the port side of the ship. Senior Chief Damage Controlman William Merchen, a newly frocked petty officer third class at the time, was one of three Sailors who had been putting tools away after completing their morning maintenance in the filter cleaning shop.
Cole had been bombed in a terrorist attack, killing 17 U.S. Navy Sailors and injuring 37 others. October brings with it a stark reminder of the lives lost and the invaluable lessons learned, reinforcing the gravity of what it means to wear the uniform of a U.S. Navy Sailor.
“We were standing there speaking one moment, and then the next moment we were on the deck on the other side of the shop and it was dark, the room was starting to fill up with smoke and we couldn’t breathe so well,” said Merchen.
Merchen said his shop contained light bulbs and cans of paint that had exploded when a small boat carrying two suicide bombers pulled alongside Cole and collided with the ship. Paint spilled all over the shop and broken glass covered the floor. The three Sailors made their way out of their work space and down the port side ladderwell to don self-contained breathing apparatuses and helmets equipped with flashlights on the damage control deck. Once they got on air, they began to hear voices in the Chiefs Mess.
“The things they were saying were beyond just ‘I’m trapped’ and ‘get me out of here,’” said Merchen. “People were describing how they were injured. We knew we had to get in there as quickly as possible, but that wasn’t going to be as easy as opening the door.”
One of the two Sailors with Merchen constructed a plan to create an opening in the bulkhead that had collapsed on the Chiefs Mess. They began rescuing the trapped Sailors inside. The rescue was just the beginning in the fight to save the ship.
Over the next 12 days, Merchen and all able-bodied crew members aboard Cole tackled the massive damage control effort.
Merchen said everyone stepped up, dug in, and put their own safety and feelings aside to attack the damage to the ship and get people out, which, in the end, helped save a lot of lives. People who would otherwise have succumbed to their injuries survived because others stepped out of their comfort zones, stepped away from their typical job and responded to the crisis.
Today, Merchen is assigned to Afloat Training Group Atlantic as a damage control mission readiness inspector, where he is able to deliver first-hand knowledge to a new generation of Sailors, better preparing them to effectively combat casualties.
“It has shaped everything that I’ve done at every command I’ve been to,” said Merchen. “There hasn’t been a single one of those trainings or drills that I haven’t thought about the attack on Cole.”
Merchen has recently been assigned to work with Cole’s damage control teams to ensure they are up to speed and ready for any threat or casualty they may face while operating at sea. “Senior Chief Merchen – He’s a professional,” said Cmdr. Edward J. Pledger, commanding officer of Cole. “I often talk about Cole heroes, and the honor of being able to meet any of them. He’s a Cole hero and having him on our ship and training us — it’s very special to have that opportunity.”
Merchen described his opportunity to work with Cole again as a fantastic way to reconnect with a ship that he is deeply proud to have served on.
“After several years, I hadn’t been aboard Cole, except maybe once since the attack,” said Merchen. “As I go through the spaces, I do think about what they looked like after the attack. I do think about where I know certain people passed away or where they were injured. It’s good to remember that stuff. It does a service to those people that were injured and honors the people that were killed.”
Merchen’s experience and the dedication he brings to damage control make his teaching and advice invaluable.
“When he speaks, our Sailors listen, because they know this isn’t somebody who just has been teaching it from a book,” said Pledger. “This is somebody who has done it in real life and understands that if you don’t do it right, people could die or you could lose your ship.” As Merchen nears retirement, he finds pride and hope in today’s junior Sailors throughout the Navy, specifically, those serving on Cole.
“When I look into the news today and I see Cole is off on another deployment or completing another exercise or working with a foreign Navy, I see the ship floating in the water. I see it out executing missions to keep us safe in the United States. I know that the ship wouldn’t [be doing those things] if it wasn’t for the actions of so many brave people and the sacrifices of so many fantastic Sailors back in October of 2000 in Aden, Yemen,” said Merchen.
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) was attacked by terrorists at 11:18 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2000, while moored for refueling in the Port of Aden, Yemen. The explosive created a 40-by-60 foot hole on the port side of the ship, and Cole’s Sailors fought fires and flooding for the following 96 hours to keep the ship afloat. Commemorative events are scheduled to remember and honor the 20th anniversary of the attack and the service and sacrifice of the 17 Sailors who were lost, the 37 injured, and the Gold Star families. Please visit the commemoration website to learn more at https://www.surflant.usff.navy.mil/remember67.
The COVID pandemic has prompted people to change how they conduct their business and personal activities.
More than ever, people have come to rely on mobile applications to order groceries, make appointments, and otherwise meet a wide variety of their needs.
With this in mind, Waldron McCritty, a black U.S. Navy and hospitality industry veteran, set out to revolutionize concierge services for those who want to enjoy their best-available lifestyle. He designed BE LUX, the new mobile app by Bold, Inc., to provide personal concierge service in today’s high tech world. The BE LUX lifestyle management platform will help people with everything from travel arrangements to lawn care. All they have to do is sign up for a membership, and everything will be handled by quality trained service professionals.
“I come from three generations of hospitality and management services, and have made it my mission to introduce to this segment the power of today’s advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence,” explains Waldron McCritty, chief executive officer of BE LUX. “I have a passion for providing great services, and BE LUX is going to help streamline that process.”
The company and its service platform, is a concept that occurred to Waldron while he was helping his family develop their property and hospitality businesses. He envisioned a mobile app that would help solve some of the customer services and logistics problems that they had encountered regularly. After researching and testing various alternatives, BE LUX was born.
Today the BE LUX app is available for download on Apple and Android devices. Users may choose a membership level that includes a range of services that suit their personal concierge preferences. Membership levels include Basic, Premium, and Executive, with service options that span personal assistant, home services, lodging, party and events, travel, and delivery service needs.
Members seeking Home Services, for example, will have all of their essential needs met without having to source the specific individual service providers to perform the work. Services such as yard work, repairs, cleaning, and laundry will integrate seamlessly. Likewise, those who choose the Executive membership level will have all of their office assistant needs addressed. BE LUX will help people save time and money by running errands, having groceries and take-out delivered, or making travel plans.
Five things to know about BE LUX include:
1.The company that created Be Lux, Bold Inc. is a certified Black- and veteran-owned business. Waldron served eight years in the U.S. Navy.
2.Waldron’s experience in the military prepared him for entrepreneurship. He served with the Elite Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Counter Narcotics Units as an Operations Specialist, and Coordinator. After obtaining a degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering, he gained 15 years of professional experience in management and mobile technology.
3.The app is currently launching in Atlanta, but will soon be available in cities around the country.
4.Currently the services offered include restaurant and grocery delivery, package and alcohol delivery, and transportation services. Transportation services include on-demand, as well as chauffeur services. More services will follow shortly.
5.The BE LUX platform and underlying services will focus on helping people with everything from simple chores to corporate office assistance.
“Everyone wants more free time and less stress, despite all the daily tasks and chores to be done,” added McCritty. “BE LUX does all this and so much more. Constant attention to a list of to-dos around the home or office can consume a lot of time and energy. Users of BE LUX can while our trained service providers ensure that everything on their list gets properly handled in a timely and professional manner. BE LUX is the app for those who want to spend more time living their life to the fullest, rather than taking care of all the little tasks that need to be done.”
Bold, Inc was founded by Waldron McCritty, a black veteran whose service experience prepared him to be an entrepreneur. He spent eight years in various positions within the U.S. Navy. As a third generation concierge professional, he is tapping into new technology to help streamline this service domain. BE LUX is the revolutionary new App that offers advanced lifestyle management services. To learn more about the company and app, visit the site at: https://beluxllc.com.
For many combat veterans, deployment doesn’t neatly end when their tour is up. The brain, once engaged at combat level, simply can’t turn off and pivot to the mundane details of civilian life in the time it takes to touch down on American soil. Returning home in any real way takes a different set of skills—skills that many veterans see as elusive at best. Maybe even impossible to attain.
To that end, “Landing Home” is a seven-part TV series that shares the compelling story of a veteran trying to adjust to civilian life after leaving the military. It deftly takes the audience into the mind of a combat soldier freed from duty but never free, pulls back the curtain on the lasting damage of war to the human psyche, and helps the viewer understand that returning home can represent only the beginning of a different kind of war.
Leaning into authenticity, the series includes more 20 veterans in cast and crew, many of whom saw action. Douglas Taurel plays Luke, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. While he decides to leave the military in order to be with his family, he soon realizes that this is much harder than he ever imagined. Something as simple as a birthday party for his five-year-old daughter can quickly become overwhelming and trigger his post-traumatic stress disorder.
“My goal with the project is to give people a true sense of the emotional and psychological effect war has on our veterans and why it’s so hard for them and their families to assimilate back into normal life,” Taurel said. “We owe our veterans and their families so much. We all need to understand the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make and what their families endure. We can never thank them enough.”
WATCH THE TRAILER!
Taurel is best known for his gripping one-man play, “The American Soldier,” which has performed in 16 cities and 11 states with notable spaces like the Kennedy Center, Off-Broadway, Library of Congress, and the American Legion’s National Headquarters to name a few. This play also touches on many aspects of war and explores the sacrifices and challenges our veterans and their families face as they return home from combat.
“Landing Home” is available on Amazon, Amazon Prime and Vimeo On Demand.
The TV series will help the civilian population understand what it means to serve our country. To let everyone know that veterans face an even bigger, sometimes hidden struggle to adjust to a normal way of life.
– Joe Reynolds / Vietnam Veteran
So wish the whole world especially every Veteran could see it. What your work, art, craft, talent represents is “Something that matters in life”…don’t ever forget or DOUBT that!
– John Caoli / Iraq Veteran
I just purchased your series Landing Home and already in just the first episode I can feel the resurfacing of what it felt like for me 29 years ago. That is when I came home from a war to begin fighting my own personal battle. I am honored to know you and honored by the work you do for us!
– Lynn Santosuosso / Iraq Veteran
About Douglas Taurel
Taurel has been nominated for Innovative Theater Award as well as the United Kingdom prestigious Amnesty International Award for this work with The American Soldier. He’s appeared in numerous television shows including The Affair, Mr. Robot, The Americans, Blue Bloods, Person of Interest, The Following, Damages, NYC 22, Believe, and Nurse Jackie. The Los Angeles Times said his work on Nurse Jackie, “Nurse Jackie gets her most fascinating character yet to date.”
He was commissioned by the Library of Congress to write, create and perform his second solo show, An American Soldier’s Journey Home which commemorates the ending of the First World War and tells the story of Irving Greenwald, a soldier in the 308 Regiment and part of the Lost Battalion. He has performed the play twice at the Library of Congress.
Most are generally surprised to find out my actual age of 51. “How do you look so young and fit? That is a question I get often and with a grand smile I pass on the great advice I received from my father; if you take care of your body, your body will take care of you!
As a retired Navy Veteran for 26 years and spending 4 years in amateur boxing, I’ve developed my own blended fitness program that combines the physical military training with the intensity of boxing training. This approach I consider my “Ageless” workout plan consists of building and maintaining lean muscle mass while decreasing body fat to achieve a healthy body and mind.
Growing up in a large family of 6 brothers and 5 sisters in southern Georgia and whose father is a Brick Mason and Farmer, hard work and fitness came hand to hand.
Being the shortest of all my brothers and the only twin to my younger sister, I’ve prove to myself that my strength matched their sizes and never needed their support.
During most of my tours in the Navy, I was appointed as Command Fitness Coordinator (CFC) where I’ve trained Sailors to pass a physical fitness assessment (PFA) twice a year!
I’ve developed a deep passion to continue this training after retirement and my results have been amazing! I’m truly am at the best shape of my life!
Earlier this year I started to conduct live virtual workout sessions to support others looking to make improvements to their health regardless of their past fitness level which can be done from the comfort of their own homes.
Since COVID-19 made its entrance in 2020, the world has never been the same and now more than ever we need to make health and fitness our top priority. The truth of the matter is with a weak immune system, poor diet, and lack of exercise we’ve been a huge target of health issues before this pandemic occurred. The stakes are much higher now and we must do all we can to defeat it.
I am honored to mentor and coach others on their path to fitness success.
In a week’s time, the United States’ oldest living American to have served in the Second World War is going to turn the grand old age of 111. To help him celebrate, the National World War II Museum is asking people from all around the world to send him a birthday greeting.
So what is life like for a 110-year-old? If you’re Lawrence Brooks—who in the early 1940s was stationed in the Pacific as part of the 91st Engineer Battalion—you spend lots of time doting on your five children and five stepchildren, your 12 grandkids, and an incredible 23 great grandchildren.
If you’re Lawrence, you also love celebrating your big day with others at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
On those jubilant occasions, there’s live music. There’s cupcakes. It’s a fun day for all.
But because of the pandemic, on his birthday this year Lawrence won’t be able to celebrate with lots of others.
Luckily, the museum has come up with a novel idea for Lawrence’s September 12 birthday this year: Well-wishers can send the supercentenarian a birthday card the old-fashioned way: by mail.
Lawrence, who lives with his daughter in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood, reflected on his long and interesting life to National Geographic. And he gave a few words of wisdom. Eat right. Stay healthy. Most importantly? ”Be nice to people.”
Now you know a little of Mr. Brooks’ story, perhaps it’s time to find that stash of letter paper, your fanciest pen, and celebrate by sending the veteran a card?
Here’s the mailing address you can send your birthday greeting to:
The National WWII Museum
c/o Happy 111th Mr. Brooks!
The National WWII Museum
c/o Happy 111th Mr. Brooks!
945 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
Happy writing! And be sure to check out the National World War II Museum’s social media on September 12 for a special birthday video.
Horses are not only “good for the inside of a man,” but uniquely suited for mental health therapy for veterans due to both instinct and behavior.
When paired with a human, a horse will intuitively react to behavioral patterns or body language from the human. This gives insight into how a person is being perceived. Because they are prey animals, horses are constantly on the lookout for danger and respond quickly with either confrontation or flight. This instinct allows for a deeper level of intervention with a therapist that surpasses any other mental health treatment.
StableStrides is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose primary focus is mental health therapy with horses. Situated in the large military community of Colorado Springs, CO, StableStrides is uniquely positioned to serve veterans, active duty servicemembers and military families. On a mission to significantly improve the lives of people through a connection with horses, StableStrides exists because of horses and their ability to touch the lives of people.
Horses and humans share a history that goes back to ancient times and has continued to today. Their role in medicine was first prescribed by Hippocrates (460 BC-375 BC) as a form of natural movement that strengthened the body. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” believed in health that united body and mind and studied treatment for trauma and mental healthcare. Since then, relationships between horse and human has been studied and incorporated into modern medical practices, both physical and mental.
The physical aspects of horseback riding are used to develop physical strength, muscle development and other physical benefits, while the relationship between horse and human is known to strengthen both mind and spirit. Today, the term Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) defines the use of the horse in recreational and medical intervention. A large portion of EAAT is focused on veterans and their healing journeys during and after service. When partnered with a horse, a veteran is asking the horse to enter into a relationship with them that requires mutual trust and some degree of vulnerability.
One veteran reflects on his mental health sessions at StableStrides by asking:
“How could they go from resting and relaxed to full alert, with a first instinct to run, then to relax again, in seconds? How they could let go of that tension and anxiety and just “be?” As a herd animal, they entrust leadership to the strongest. That leader makes the decisions for the herd for as long as it’s capable or trusted. How can a prey animal, the horse, come to trust an apex predator, a human, with their safety? What a concept. This huge, powerful animal, easily capable of killing me, that fears me because I am a predator, could come to trust and work for me because it wants to.”
As prey animals, centuries of domestication have done little to lessen the horse’s response to danger. They understand that their best chance in escaping danger is to flee. As a result, the horse’s “fight-or-flight” instinct is used for decision making. In addition, horses are extremely perceptive and communicate with body language to convey fear, anger, calm or anxiety.
In a herd, each member relies on the leaders in the hierarchy to make decisions for the safety of the herd, if that leader can be trusted. When in the absence of a herd, the horse will determine if the human is to be trusted as the leader. If not, the horse will decide on his own what is safest.
Therapists have selected horses to incorporate into therapy due to these characteristics, including what many call “mirroring of emotions”. While horses aren’t mirrors, they will often reflect their leader’s emotions. If their leader senses danger and responds with fear, so will the horse. If the horse senses calm in their leader, the horse will likewise be calm, trusting their leader’s instinct. In mental health therapy, the therapist incorporates the horse and the relationship between veteran and horse for a dynamic and therapeutic environment. Through the horse’s reactivity, a veteran and therapist are able to examine and process behavioral reactions or emotional incongruencies. This requires the veteran to be present and mindful as to what is unfolding, and to be transparent about reactions.
Many organizations such as StableStrides exist for the horse-human connection and improve lives through EAAT. Through a connection with horses, mental health therapy strengthens families and individuals. Because of the horse’s unique qualities and instincts, incorporating horses into mental health allows for a therapeutic intervention that surpasses any other form of mental health therapy.
Photo Credit: Amy May Images
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