Warrior Ranch Foundation rescues and trains horses — then matches them with veterans and first responders who can benefit from healing therapy.
Eileen Shanahan is the founder and president of the Warrior Ranch Foundation, headquartered in Calverton, N.Y.
She was joined by U.S. Army Ranger veteran Paul Martinez, U.S. Coast Guard veteran Maddie Feaster and Warrior Ranch trainer Gina Lamb — and together they explained how this equine therapy organization helps veterans and first responders heal from PTSD.
“We do horse interaction therapy,” explained Shanahan, who is also an editor with Fox News.
“What we do is we teach our participants about the nature of horses and the way horses communicate with each other — and that’s through body language.”
Warrior Ranch Foundation rescues and trains horses, then pairs them up with veterans and first responders who need their healing energy.
Shanahan explained that they teach simple exercises to learn to communicate with the horses, with a focus on safety.
“Now, think about it: We’re stepping into their herd — so it’s about respect and trust,” she said.
“You have to get the trust of that horse,” Shanahan continued. “When horses are out in the field seeing who the leader is, they’re poking each other, biting each other, kicking each other.”
She explained that they’re not hurting each other, noting that they each weigh about 1,000 pounds, “but when we enter their herd, that’s the only way they know how to communicate” — hence the foundation’s focus on safety.
Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in acute suicidal crisis will be able to go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.
This expansion of care will help prevent Veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to Veterans in times of crisis. It will also increase access to acute suicide care for up to 9 million Veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA.
Preventing Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. This effort is a key part of VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and the Biden-Harris administration’s plan for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide. In September, VA released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which showed that Veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer Veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006.
“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” said VA Secretary for Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”
VA has submitted an interim final rule to the federal register to establish this authority under section 201 of the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020. The final policy, which takes effect on Jan. 17, will allow VA to:
-Provide, pay for, or reimburse for treatment of eligible individuals’ emergency suicide care, transportation costs, and follow-up care at a VA or non-VA facility for up to 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care.
-Make appropriate referrals for care following the period of emergency suicide care.
-Determine eligibility for other VA services and benefits.
-Refer eligible individuals for appropriate VA programs and benefits following the period of emergency suicide care.
Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:
-Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.
Over the past year, VA has announced or continued several additional efforts to end Veteran suicide, including establishing 988 (then press 1) as a way for Veterans to quickly connect with caring, qualified crisis support 24/7; proposing a new rule that would reduce or eliminate copayments for Veterans at risk of suicide; conducting an ongoing public outreach effort on firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety; and leveraging a national Veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign, “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.”
If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7 confidential support. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. To reach responders, Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.
Officials detailed the effort in a proposed rule released in the Federal Register on Tuesday. They have not yet released a timeline for exactly when the copayments will be ended, but the final rule is expected to be approved in coming months.
The department has already pledged to reimburse all eligible veterans for any copayments made between Jan. 5, 2022, and the date of that final approval.
“American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans have played a vital role in the defense of the United States as members of the Armed Forces for more than 200 years,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This rule makes health care more accessible and allows us to better deliver to these veterans the care and health benefits that they have earned through their courageous service.”
VA estimates about 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans are living in the country today, and Defense Department officials have estimated that roughly 24,000 active duty service members belong to the same groups.
Veterans Affairs officials said they do not have a reliable estimate on how many of those veterans are currently using department health care services.
Hearing-related issues, particularly tinnitus and hearing loss, are the top service-connected disabilities affecting our nation’s veterans of all ages.Today, more than 2.7 million veterans receive benefits or are in treatment for hearing-related issues, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Here are some additional compelling statistics:
4% more likely to report little-to-moderate trouble hearing
5% more likely to report a lot of hearing difficulty or deafness
23% more likely to report having balance problems
What’s even more worrisome is these issues are inextricably linked to many other conditions, including social isolation, loneliness, depression and cognitive decline. A study published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology found compelling evidence connecting tinnitus with depression and anxiety for veterans: 72% of veterans with tinnitus had a diagnosis of anxiety, 60% had depression and 58% had both conditions.
The Heroes With Hearing Loss® program, provided by Hamilton® CapTel®, is designed specifically to combat these issues by providing life-changing solutions that can re-establish and even deepen the connections veterans have with family, friends and healthcare professionals. These solutions include captioned telephone for home, work and while on the go.
Hamilton CapTel captioned telephones offer unique features ranging from touch-screen navigation, Bluetooth® connectivity, speakerphone and more – making it possible to read what’s being said while on the phone.
Hamilton®CapTel® for Business, Interconnected by Tenacity™ is available to veterans who experience hearing loss and have difficulty hearing on the phone while in the workplace. Hamilton CapTel displays captions of what’s being said on the screen of a Cisco® phone, allowing clarity and confidence on every business call.
Heroes Mobile™ CapTel®for iOS is available to veterans right now on the Apple App Store for download. The feature-rich app delivers the same Hamilton CapTel experience customers have enjoyed at home and at work for years – now at your fingertips wherever you go. It seamlessly integrates with device contacts and captions are fast and incredibly accurate.
Hamilton CapTel is provided by Hamilton Relay®, a pioneer of telecommunications relay services (TRS). Since 1991, Hamilton Relay has been dedicated to serving individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking. Hamilton CapTel is dedicated to making phone conversations simple and accessible for individuals with hearing loss.
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston never could have imagined he would lose his left leg here in the States after returning home from being deployed. While the accident certainly changed his life, his impressive outlook has him proving nothing is impossible.
“After I got back from deployment, we were moving into a new house when I was loading a mattress onto the truck and it fell off,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine in a recent phone interview. “Just as I was picking it back up, someone hit me. When I was hit, I thought the vehicle hit my funny bone which was why my leg was numb.
When they got me into the back of the ambulance, they gave me some meds for the pain. I was upset and hangry at the time because I had just ordered Domino’s. When I heard someone say, ‘left leg amputation,’ that’s when it hit me.”
Despite his injury, the U.S. Virgin Islands native has not only found many reasons to be grateful, but also push himself to incredible limits.
“As a Marine, we go from being active and physical specimens and being the best at everything to being reduced to having a caretaker,” Hairston said. “I had to fight to get back to my old self. When I was injured, I had another reason to be glad I joined the Marine Corps. I had a phone call with my Colonel at the time and I was sent to Walter Reed. They have the best adaptive program in the Department of Defense. When I was there, I told them I wanted to go to the Paralympics.”
Now holding the title of the first para-cyclist in Virgin Islands history and being the only hand cyclist in the Marine Corps to win at the 2022 Warrior Games was “the greatest feeling in my entire Marine Corps career,” he said. “Hearing guys in other branches saying ‘there’s a guy killing it in cycling’ or ‘watch out for that Marine’ was incredible. When I was injured, my physical and occupational therapists told me that even though I lost a leg, they kept reinforcing that I can still do what I did before; I just needed to figure out how to do it now. I was able to prove to myself that I can still be active and take a walk with my wife (a Marine helicopter pilot) or play with my dogs and being able to compete really helped me with my recovery.”
Hairston first competed in a four-mile race in Central Park. “It was the first time that I felt like myself,” he said. “As a Marine, we have to win everything, but I came in third place. That gave me the Paralympics bug. I have done a few marathons now in hand cycling and am getting ready to do three more.”
With two gold medals for cycling, a silver medal in archery and silver and bronze awards for track to his credit, Hairston’s continued determination to succeed has reinforced he is still the same specimen he was when he joined the military — just a little bit different now.
Hairston created a nonprofit called Salvage Life with the goal of inspiring others to lead a healthy and active lifestyle with a focus on veteran and disabled communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Knowing that people back home are disabled and not able to get the same support that I had here in the states was the reason I started the nonprofit,” he said. “As I continue in my recovery, I was able to host the first adaptive sports clinic in the Virgin Islands just before Warrior Games. I showed guys how to shoot archery and wanted to show people that you can make things work for someone with a disability. After my injury, I said if I can help just one person, it would be a success. I got to help eight people; that’s the best part of it.”
Do you experience recurring headaches accompanied by intense pain and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound? If so, you may suffer from migraine, a debilitating neurological disease that affects nearly 40 million Americans. While everyone experiences migraine differently, the impact can disrupt everyday life with attacks lasting from four to 72 hours.
Unfortunately, veterans are more likely to experience migraine and headaches than civilians, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs*. If you think you have migraine, it might be time to talk with your local Veteran Affairs doctor.
Here are some tips to help you get the most of out of your visit:
Make a list of questions to ask during your appointment
Be prepared to share your medical and headache history, including prior concussions, exposure to blasts, etc. that occurred during a military tour
Talk about potential migraine triggers, such as stress, weather or lack of sleep
Ask about treatment and prevention strategies, including an orally dissolving medication to treat and prevent attacks
Learn more about resources to help manage migraine, including National Headache Foundation’s “Operation Brainstorm”
The Marines famously have the reputation of being “first to fight.” But one Marine has earned another, lesser-known, distinction: first woman to complete 27 chest-to-ground burpees in one minute.
Sgt. Nahla Beard, an air traffic control supervisor at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, smashed the Guinness World Record in burpees on Aug. 14, 2021, the service announced last month.
Because of coronavirus restrictions, a Guinness judge could not be in attendance to verify the Marine’s burpees in person. That meant Beard had to record herself and submit a video of her achievement. Base command turned out to watch, and even brought along friends and family, Beard said in a DVIDS story.
Onlookers were not disappointed: Beard broke the record by two burpees, completing an average of one burpee every 2.2 seconds. And she did it more than once.
“I ended up attempting five times on the same day because I wasn’t sure if I did it,” Beard said in the release.
More than one-third of all congressional races on the ballot this November will feature a veteran, and several could help decide which party wins control of the House and Senate next year.
The 196 veterans who have won major-party primaries represent the largest group of candidates with military experience in a decade. It includes 130 non-incumbents trying to increase the total number of veterans in Congress next year.
The field also features:
17 women veterans running for office;
58 veterans who enlisted after Jan. 1, 2000;
95 veterans with a combat deployment;
90 veterans who served in the Army (the most from any service);
16 races featuring two veterans against each other;
43 states with at least one veteran on the ballot for national office;
Below is a list of all of the candidates with military experience who won major-party primaries this year and will appear on the November ballot. The list was compiled in partnership with the Veterans Campaign.
Post Military Life – Much has changed in the world and in our country since our publication was founded. Everywhere we look, times are shifting, and it’s our goal to always be a part of learning from the past to make the future better and brighter for those who have been called to serve. The impact of veterans in their communities is multifold. They bring their skills, expertise, values and work ethic to local business, politics and the community at large. However, they have, unfortunately, not always received the aid and respect that is due to someone who honorably served in our armed forces.
As U.S. Veterans Magazine celebrates 10 years of supporting those who have been called to serve, we asked some of our partners about the difference they’ve seen in the veteran experience over the last decade.
U.S. Veterans Magazine: What do you believe has been the most significant change or benefit to veterans in the last 10 years?
Bobby McDonald, OC Black Chamber of Commerce:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Orange Country Black Chamber of Commerce
“In the year 2012, in the county of Orange, in the State of California, there were over 150,000 veterans living in the county. Orange County was the third largest county in California behind Los Angeles and San Diego and had no outside funding or support other than the Veterans Service Office, which came basically from the California Department of Veterans Affairs, through the County of Orange. The Orange County Veterans Advisory Council (OCVAC) was formed and comprised of members appointed by the OC Board of Supervisors. The board was made up of nine members that were U.S. military veterans with honorable discharges. In 2012, the OCVAC was injected with [a] couple of Vietnam veterans that were of the mindset to make a positive change in the veterans environment and set a course of involvement, awareness, outreach, resource availability and positive outcomes. Armed with the theme ‘Have We Helped A Veteran Today’ and a commitment to help veterans get housing, education, health, employment and legal support, the group set forth to make positive measurable changes with partnerships.”
Keith King, National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC):
Photo Credit: Courtesy of NVBDC
“The inclusion of veteran-owned businesses in the supplier diversity programs of America’s leading corporations is the most significant change of the past 10 years of successful post military life. When veteran businesses were first identified as legal contracting entities in the federal government, many veteran businesses celebrated. But the hype never lived up to the promise. As the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) was forming in late 2012, it was clear that, if a third-party certification organization could create a certification program for veteran business owners that met corporate supplier diversity standards, the corporations would give certified veterans a chance to compete for contracts. In 2014, when the NVBDC presented its certification program to a group of corporations, they all gave NVBDC their tacit approval. By 2017, when the 28 corporations of the Billion Dollar Roundtable named NVBDC as the only acceptable veteran business certification to use to capture and report their veteran business spend amounts, they created an $80 billion opportunity for our veteran businesses.”
Phil Kowalczyk, President and CEO of Camp Corral:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Camp Corral
“The awareness and understanding of mental health challenges veterans, caregivers and their families are facing has been the most evolving trend over the last decade. Furthermore, the demographics of military and veteran communities continue to change rapidly, especially among caregivers. Camp Corral’s research has indicated that 70 percent of military children perform at least one caregiving task in wounded warrior households. Many of them experience similar emotional health challenges as their adult counterparts and caregiver responsibility can affect a child’s ability to participate in activities non-military children typically pursue. The Biden Administration recognizes these challenges and is dedicating more resources to serving military and veteran families through the ‘Joining Forces’ initiative. Commitments include support for caregiver economic opportunities and respite as well as increasing access to quality behavioral, social and emotional health resources for military and veteran families. These initiatives will be essential post military life steps in ensuring community providers have the resources they need to provide culturally competent and evidence-based care for both children and adult caregivers of our country’s ill, wounded and fallen military heroes and veterans.”
The Rosie Network:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Rosie Network
“The U.S. offers the most extensive veteran benefits in the world. Despite this, there remain much-needed improvements and one of the most significant is the Mission Act (2019) allowing veterans to seek treatment of the VA. As the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, I watched my mother sacrifice her nursing career to support my father’s 20 years of active-duty service. Living on a single enlisted income meant falling below the poverty line and [into] financial hardship. While military spouses continue to struggle with employment, there has been a significant shift over the past 10 years to address this issue. Today, military and veteran spouses have access to organizations and resources from Military OneSource to those seeking self-employment support from The Rosie Network.”
Patrick Alcorn, UTAVBOC:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of UTAVBOC
“The most significant benefit to veterans over the last 10 years includes the expansion of the Veterans Business Outreach Center program. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development created this program, specifically, to empower post military Life, veterans and military spouses who are interested in starting and growing their business.”
Oath of Enlistment – As a retired combat disabled veteran, I have heard this heartfelt statement from many proud American citizens. I always hear it in terms of deep respect for the sacrifices men and women have made to defend our nation.
Yet, now, in this time in history in our nation, I have been thinking deeper about what these words, “thank you for your service,” and what the Oath of Enlistment actually mean.
Here’s what I mean. When I ask a person who has just thanked me for my service, what do you mean by your words? They often tell me, “well, you protected our nation,” or will say, “you fought for our country.”
Both of those are true; however, they are also byproducts of the service oath I took when I enlisted into the United States Army.
I believe what we’re missing in American Society today is honor, respect and truth for what the military service member has signed on to do. There appears to be an assumption of what “thank you for your service” means. There is no recollection or call back to the oath of service each enlisted, or officer takes to begin the process of service to our country.
The oath I took was “to support and defend the United States Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
What this means is my combat service was in defense of the United States Constitution. It was not to an individual or a group. Even though the next lines say that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States, there is always an exception to the policy if an order is in contrast to the defense of the United States Constitution or is unlawful. That is the Oath of Enlistment
The next question I asked myself was when was the last time I read the United States Constitution? I realized I had not done so in quite some time. So, I downloaded the app and read through the document on Memorial Day.
What fascinates me about Article 5 is that despite the best efforts to get it right, the framers of the constitution wrote this Article to let future generations know it could be amended. They knew that what they wrote had to be a living document to stand long beyond their years on this earth.
Another interesting point about “thank you for your service” is the assumption that my amputation came due to my combat experience.
Often amputees, who served or have not served, will be mistakenly identified as service members because of their disability. I represent 70 percent of those who were not injured in combat — though my disability occurred while on active duty.
When building the United States Olympic and Paralympic Military Sports Program, the issue that gave me the greatest concern was well-meaning charitable organizations that only wanted to serve those who were injured in combat. They had no idea the rift they were causing in the hospitals because they were separating who was more worthy of their “thank you for your service.”
I was recently talking with a business coach friend of mine who served in Vietnam. When I shared with him my sentiments around, “thank you for your service,” he shared with me that when he got out, he was never un-oathed.
This oath of enlistment, I believe, is the bond that connects every service member, regardless of branch, together. Just because service members transition back to civilian life, hopefully with an honorable discharge, it does not mean we have thrown away the oath to protect the United States Constitution.
So, the next time you either hear, “thank you for your service,” or you say it to somebody, remember what the oath of service says and what it protects. Our democracy will stand or fall not on one leader but on our vigilance to defend the United States Constitution.
There remains deep respect in America for the sacrifices men and women have made to defend our nation. Let us honor those who served by understanding the United States Constitution is the depth of our defense.
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