“We few. We completely satisfied few. We band of brothers.” These traces from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” seize the bonds cast in fight.
The bonds are the identical whether or not cast within the Battle of Agincourt, France, in 1415 — the battle on the coronary heart of Shakespeare’s play — or within the Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan, in 2009, the place U.S. troopers carried out a tricky mission on the coronary heart of the worldwide conflict on terrorism.
These bonds final a lifetime, and an modern program — Operation Resiliency — seeks to reap the benefits of these bonds to assist finish the epidemic of suicides amongst U.S. veterans.
Officers on the Division of Veterans Affairs say that every 12 months greater than 6,000 veterans take their very own lives.
OPRES — as people name this system — grew out of an actual expertise. Sarah Verardo, whose husband was catastrophically wounded throughout his service in Afghanistan, began The Independence Fund to advertise independence for veterans. Her husband served with Bravo Firm, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan.
The unit was deployed to the Arghandab at a really powerful time and roughly 50 % of the troopers within the unit had been awarded Purple Hearts by the tip of the deployment, Caroline Arey, strategic messaging director for The Independence Fund, stated.
The dying did not cease when the unit got here residence. Two troopers within the unit took their very own lives. On the funeral for the second veteran, in a supreme instance of gallows humor, one veteran instructed one other, “Guess I am going to see you on the subsequent certainly one of these.”
“Sarah instructed herself, ‘This has to cease right here,'” Arey stated.
“In 2018, Sarah — whose husband Mike was in my unit — gave me a name and instructed me she had this concept to carry collectively hard-hit fight items … for a type of reunion, however extra for the therapeutic facet and the reconnectivity of it,” stated retired Military Command Sgt. Maj. Donald McAlister, who was the primary sergeant for Bravo Firm within the Arghandab. “She felt that if she obtained the fellows again collectively, … we might use that teamwork, that bond we’ve and that group resilience to principally hold one another alive.”
Operation Resiliency was born with the concept that the bonds cast in fight would assist the troopers cope with the trials they confronted coming residence. The VA purchased into it rapidly and the Workplace of Psychological Well being and Suicide Prevention “was super-supportive of this from the start and have labored with us to essentially companion to carry Operation Resiliency to life,” Arey stated. “They offered lots of companies for us on the very onset that included coaching. They trusted us with the power to develop it, they usually helped create a number of the coaching that we have accomplished.”
The group examined the idea on McAlister’s Bravo Firm. It is a free, four-day retreat for the members of the unit. The corporate leaders purchased into the idea and labored to get the opposite troopers of the unit to attend. “These enable us to expertise that sense of brotherhood that we had within the ‘Dab,'” McAlister stated.
Nearly 100 Bravo firm troopers attended the retreat, held in North Carolina. Some have been nonetheless on lively responsibility, some have been retired, some have been out of the Military.
“I knew that once we obtained these guys collectively, that for me to nonetheless be their chief, I needed to lead by instance,” McAlister stated. “And, to me, main by instance was being open and sincere, and letting them know that mentally, bodily, I am going to by no means be the person I used to be earlier than. I went by way of all of the issues I went by way of. However on the finish of the day, that is OK. And once I instructed them, ‘You already know, it is OK for us all to not be OK, so long as we, so long as we acknowledge it. We will see the enemy, see what’s coming at us.'”
OPRES retains the connection going with follow-ups to take care of contact between the veterans.
The Independence Fund has hosted 468 combat-tested service members by way of Operation Resiliency, and the outcomes have far exceeded expectations, Arey stated. The retreats are held the place the service members are — Texas, California, North Carolina and extra. The group hopes to host six retreats this subsequent 12 months.
For extra data, level your browser to The Independence Fund.